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Title: The Elements of Character
Author: Ware, Mary G. (Mary Greene)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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"An exclusively intellectual education leads, by a very obvious process,
to hard-heartedness and the contempt of all moral influences. An
exclusively moral education tends to fatuity by the over-excitement of
the sensibilities. An exclusively religious education ends in
insanity, if it do not take a directly opposite course and lead to







"We have been taught, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or
unintentionally, to seek rather what virtue gives than what virtue is;
the reward rather than the service, the felicity rather than the life,
the dowry, let me say, rather than the bride."--T.T. STONE.

"His practice was of a more divine extraction, drawn from the word of
God, and wrought up by the assistance of his Spirit; therefore, in the
head of all his virtues I shall set that which was the head and spring
of them all, his Christianity; for this alone is the true royal blood
that runs through the whole body of virtue, and every pretender to that
glorious family, who has no tincture of it, is an impostor. This is that
same fountain which baptizeth all the gentle virtues that so immortalize
the names of the old philosophers; herein they are regenerated, and take
a new name and nature. Dug up in the wilderness of nature, and dipped
in this living spring, they are planted and flourish in the paradise of
God. By Christianity I intend that universal habit of grace which is
wrought in a soul by the regenerating Spirit of God, whereby the whole
creature is resigned up into the divine will and love, and all its
actions directed to the obedience and glory of its Maker."--MEMOIRS OF

       *       *       *       *       *

The weakness and helplessness of humanity, in relation to the fortunes
of this life, have been a favorite theme with philosophers and teachers
ever since the world began; and every term expressive of all that is
uncertain, insubstantial, and unstable has been exhausted in describing
the feebleness of man's power to retain in possession the good things of
this life, or even life itself. However firmly the hand of man may seem
to grasp power, reputation, or wealth; however numerous may be the band
of children or friends that surrounds him, he has no certainty that he
may not die friendless and a pauper. In fact, the most brilliant success
in life seems sometimes to be permitted only that it may make the
darkness of succeeding reverses the more profound.

Weak and helpless as we may be in the affairs of this life, there is,
however, one thing over which we have entire control. Riches may take
to themselves wings, though honest industry exert its best efforts to
acquire and retain them; power is taken away from hands that seek to
use it only for the good of those they govern; reputation may become
tarnished, though virtue be without spot; health may vanish, though its
laws, so far as we understand them, be strictly obeyed; but there is one
thing left which misfortune cannot touch, which God is ever seeking to
aid us in building up, and over which he permits us to hold absolute
control; and this is Character. For this, and for this alone, we are
entirely responsible. We may fail in all else, let our endeavors be
earnest and patient as they may; but all other failures touch us only in
our external lives. If we have used our best endeavors to attain success
in the pursuit of temporal objects, we are not responsible though we
fail. But if we do not succeed in attaining true health and wealth
and power of Character, the responsibility is all our own; and the
consequences of our failure are not bounded by the shores of time, but
stretch onward through the limitless regions of eternity. If we strive
for this, success is certain, for the Lord works with us to will and to
do. If we do not strive, it were better for us that we had never been

Character is all we can take with us when we leave this world. Fortune,
learning, reputation, power, must all be left behind us in the region of
material things; but Character, the spiritual substance of our being,
abides with us for ever. According as the possessions of this world have
aided in building up Character,--forming it to the divine or to the
infernal image,--they have been cursings or blessings to the soul.

Before we can understand how Character is to be built up, we must come
to a distinct faith in its reality; we must learn to feel that it is
more real than anything else that we possess; for surely that which is
eternal is more real than that which is merely temporal; it may, indeed,
be doubted whether that which is merely temporal has any just claim to
be called real.

Many persons confound reputation with Character, and believe themselves
to be striving for the reality of the one, when the fantasy of the other
alone stimulates their desires. Reputation is the opinion entertained of
us by our fellow- beings, while Character is that which we really are.
When we labor to gain reputation, we are not even taking a first step
toward the acquisition of Character, but only putting on coverings over
that which is, and protecting it against improvement. As well may we
strive to be virtuous by thinking of the reward of heaven, as to build
up our Characters by thinking of the opinions of men. The cases are
precisely parallel. In each we are thinking of the pay as something
apart from the work, while, in fact, the only pay we can have inheres in
the doing of the work. Virtue is its own reward, because its performance
creates the kingdom of heaven within us, and we cannot attain to virtue
until we strive after it for its own sake.

A wisely trained Character never stops to ask, What will society think
of me if I do this thing, or if I leave it undone? The questions by
which it tests the quality of an action are, whether it is just, and
wise, and fitting, when judged by the eternal laws of right; and in
accordance with this judgment will its manifestations ever be made. If
the mind acquires the habit of deliberately asking and answering these
questions in regard to common affairs, it acquires, by degrees, distinct
opinions in relation to life, forming a regular system, in accordance
with which the Character is shaped and built up; and unless this be
done, the Character cannot become consistent and harmonious. It is never
too late to begin to do this; but the earlier in life it is done, the
more readily the character can be conformed to the standard of right
which is thus established. Every year added to life ere this is
attempted, is an added impediment to its performance; and until it is
accomplished, there is no safety for the Character, for each year is
adding additional force to careless or evil habits of thought and
affection, and consequently of external life.

It is not going too far to say, that Character is the only permanent
possession we can have. It is in fact our spiritual body. All other
mental possessions are to the spiritual body only what clothing is to
the natural body,--something put on and taken off as circumstances vary.
Character changes from year to year as we cultivate or neglect it, and
so does the natural body; but these changes of the body are something
very different from the changes of our garments.

There is a transient and a permanent side to all our mental attributes.
Take, for instance, manners, which are the most external of them all. So
far as we habituate ourselves to courtesy and good-breeding because we
shall stand better with the world if we are polite than if we are rude,
we are cultivating a merely external habit, which we shall be likely to
throw off as often as we think it safe to go without it, as we should
an uncomfortably fitting dress; and our manners do not belong to our
Characters any more than our coats belong to our persons. This is the
transient side of manners. If, on the contrary, we are polite from an
inward conviction that politeness is one of the forms of love to the
neighbor, and because we believe that in being polite we are performing
a duty that our neighbor has a right to claim from us, and because
politeness is a trait that we love for its own inherent beauty, our
manners belong to the substance of our Character,--they are not its
garment, but its skin; and this is the permanent side of manners. Such
manners will be ours in death, and afterwards, no less than in life.

In the same way, every personal accomplishment and every mental
acquisition has its transient and its permanent side. So far as we
cultivate them to enrich and to ennoble our natures, to enlarge and to
elevate our understandings, to become wiser, better, and more useful to
our fellow-beings, we are cultivating our Characters,--the spiritual
essence of our being; but these very same acquisitions, when sought from
motives wholly selfish and worldly, are not only as transient as the
clothes we wear, but often as useless as the ornaments of a fashionable
costume. The Character will be poor and famished and cold, however great
the variety of such clothing or ornament we may put on. When the
mind has learned to appreciate the difference between reputation and
Character, between the Seeming and the being, it must next decide, if it
would build up a worthy Character, what it desires this should be; for
to build a Character requires a plan, no less than to build a house. A
deep and broad foundation of sound opinions, believed in with the whole
heart, can alone insure safety to the superstructure. Where such a
foundation is not laid, the Character will possess no architectural
unity,--will have no consistency. Its emotions will be swayed by the
impulses of the moment, instead of being governed by principles of
life. There is nothing reliable in such a Character, for it perpetually
contradicts itself. Its powers, instead of acting together, like
well-trained soldiers, will be ever jostling each other, like a
disorderly mob.

The zeal for special reforms in morality that so strongly characterizes
the present age, whatever may be its utility or its necessity, may not
be without an evil effect upon the training of Character as a whole. The
intense effort after reform in certain particular directions causes many
to forget or to overlook altogether the fact that one virtue is not
enough to make a moral being. It cannot be doubted that the present
surpasses all former ages in its eagerness to put down several of the
most prominent vices to which man is subject; but it may be well to
pause and calmly examine whether a larger promise is not sometimes
uttered by the zeal so actively at work in society, than will probably
be made good by its results.

Nothing can be worthy the name of Reform that is not based on the
Christian religion,--that does not acknowledge the laws of eternal truth
and justice,--that does not find its life in Christian charity, and its
light in Christian truth. The tendency of reform at the present day is
too often to separate itself from religion; for religion cannot work
fast enough to satisfy its haste; cannot, at the end of each year, count
the steps it has advanced in arithmetical numbers. The reformer asks not
always for general growth and advancement in Christian Character; but
demands special evidences, startling results, tangible proofs. These
things all have their value, and the persons who strive for them
doubtless have their reward; but if the kingdom of heaven and its
righteousness were first sought, the good things so fiercely advocated
and labored after by special reformers would be added unto them, as
naturally as flowers and fruits, and the wealth of harvest, are added to
the light and warmth of the advancing year.

Persons who devote themselves to one special branch of reform are apt to
lose the power of appreciating any virtue save that one which they have
selected as their own, and which they seem to love, not so much because
it is _a_ virtue as because it is _their_ virtue. They soon lose all
moral perspective, and resemble him who holds some one object so closely
before his eyes that he can see nothing else, and cannot see that
correctly, while he insists that nothing else exists worthy of being

There is ever an effort going on in the mind of man to find some
substitute for that universal obedience to the laws of faith and charity
which the Scriptures demand; and this temptation adapts itself specially
to every different class of believers. Thus the Jew, if the higher
requisitions of the Law oppress him, thinks to secure himself from its
penalties by the exactness of his ritual observances. The unfaithful
Romanist hopes to atone for a life of sin by devoting his property to
the Church, or to charity, when he dies. The Lutheran and the Calvinist,
when false to the call of duty, think to be forgiven their neglect of
the laws of charity by reason of the liveliness of their faith. So the
modern reformer sometimes seems to suppose himself at liberty to neglect
the cure of any of the vices that he loves, because he fancies that he
may take the kingdom of heaven by violence through his devotion to the
destruction of some special vice which he abhors. Thus temperance is
at times preached by men so intemperate in their zeal, that they are
unwilling to make public addresses on the Sabbath, because on that day
they are trammelled by the constraint of decency, which prevents them
from entering freely into the gross and disgusting details in which they
delight. We have the emancipation of negroes sometimes preached by men
fast bound in fetters of malignity and spiritual pride. We have the
destruction of the ruling influence of the clergy inculcated by men
dogmatic as Spanish Inquisitors. We are taught that the doctrine of the
inspiration of the Scriptures is a mere figment, by those who are firmly
convinced that their own inspiration is perfect and unfailing. The
result of all this is the development of characters as deformed as are
the bodies of victims to hydrocephalus or goitre; while, in painful
contrast to such victims, these morally distorted patients bear about
their deformities in the most conspicuous manner, as if they were rare
beauties. So pagan nations, when they embody their ideas of superhuman
attributes, often construct figures having several heads or hands, or
enormously enlarge some particular member of the frame, fancying that
they thus express ideas of wisdom or power more perfectly than they
could by forming a figure whose parts should all present a symmetrical

It is not that reformers over-estimate the evil of any of the vices
against which they contend; for in the abstract that is impossible; but
that they under-estimate the evil of all other vices in relation to
that one against which they arm themselves. The tree of evil has many
branches, and the trimming away one of them may only make the rest grow
more vigorously. There can be no thorough progress in reform until the
evil of the whole tree is perceived and acknowledged, and the whole
strength is turned to digging it up by the roots.

If a man devote himself actively to the reform of some special vice,
while he at the same time shows himself indifferent to other vices in
himself or in his neighbors, it is evident that his virtue is only
one of seeming. We are told that he who is guilty of breaking one
commandment is guilty of all; because if we disregard any one
commandment of the Lord habitually, persisting in the preference of our
own will to his, it is evident we have no true reverence for him, or
that we act in conformity to his commandments in other points only
because in them our will happens not to run counter to his; and this is
no obedience at all.

If we find men leaving no stone unturned in promoting the cause of
temperance, who do not hesitate to cheat and slander their neighbors,
temperance is no virtue in them; but is the result of love of wealth,
or of property, or of reputation, or of the having no desire for strong
drink; because if a man abstain from intemperance from love to God, he
will abstain from cheating and slandering from love to the neighbor. "He
that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom
he hath not seen?"

So, too, slavery is an enormous evil, and it is very easy for one who
dwells in the free States to cover with opprobrium those who hold
slaves; but if the abolitionist indulges in a violence of invective that
compels one to fear that his heart is burning with hatred towards his
Southern brothers, he stands quite as low in the moral scale as a
_cruel_ slaveholder, and possibly lower than a _kind_ one.

The intemperate, and often malignant, violence with which men preach,
and lead on crusades, against special vices, proves them ignorant of, or
indifferent to, the significance of virtue as a whole. It does not enter
into their hearts to conceive of the beauty of that growth in grace
which results in the complete stature of a man,--that is, of an angel.
In their haste to produce great growth in some particular direction,
they overlook the fact, that in precise proportion to such growth must
be the dwarfing of the other members of the soul. Man was created in the
image and likeness of God; and he becomes truly a man only so far as,
through the grace of God, his whole being voluntarily assumes that
resemblance to the All-perfect for which he was designed. So long as he
makes no effort to become regenerate, after he has arrived at an age to
be at liberty to choose between good and evil, he turns himself more and
more away from God, and becomes less and less like him. While in this
state, he may possess many seeming virtues, may enjoy an untarnished
reputation, may win the love of many friends; but is none the less the
hollow image of that which should be the substance of a man. He is
following only the devices of his own heart,--seeking only the good
things of this world; and there is no virtue in anything that he does,
though he may seem to devote all that he has, or all that he is, to
purposes of charity or reform. Man begins to be truly virtuous,--to be
truly a man, only when, relying on the strength of the Lord to sustain
his endeavors, he begins to avoid sin because it is abhorrent to God,
and to fulfil the commandments because they are the words of God. Then
only he begins to form himself into the symmetrical figure of a man;
and to become perfect after the manner in which the Heavenly Father is

The virtues all lock into each other. They cannot stand alone. Like the
stones of an arch, no one of them can be wanting without making all the
rest insecure. That Character alone is trustworthy in which each virtue
takes its relative position, and all are held in place and confirmed by
the key-stone of a living faith in the great central fact, that there is
a God of infinite goodness and truth, whose commandments are the laws of
life in this world and the world to come.

We cannot religiously obey one commandment unless we desire to obey all,
because in order to obey one religiously we must obey it from reverence
to the divine authority whence it emanates; and when such reverence is
aroused in the heart, it sends the currents of spiritual life to every
member of the spiritual frame, permeating the whole being, and suffering
no disease to remain upon the soul. He, therefore, who devotes himself
to some one object of reform enters upon an undertaking involving one
of the most subtle temptations by which man is ever assailed. Spiritual
pride will lie in wait for him every moment, telling him how clean he is
compared with those against whose vices he is contending; and unless
he is very strong in Christian humility, he will soon learn this
oft-repeated lesson, and will go about the world with the spirit of the
Pharisee's prayer ever in his heart,--"God, I thank thee that I am not
as other men, intemperate, a slaveholder, a contemner of the rights of
the weak. I am not, like many men, contented with fulfilling the common,
every-day duties of life. They are too small for me. I seek to do great
things; and to show my devotion to thee by going armed with all the
power the law allows, to put down vice by force, and drive it from the
face of the earth."

There is a class of men who assume to be, and are received by many as,
philanthropists, who appear to delight in detecting and publishing to
the world the vices of their fellow-beings. They seem to love to hate;
and to find, in vilifying the reputations of those to whom they are
opposed, a pleasure that can be compared to nothing human; but rather to
the joy of a vulture as he gloats over, and rends in pieces, his carrion
prey. While reading or listening to the raging denunciations of such
persons, one is painfully reminded of the spirit that a few generations
ago armed itself with the fagot and the axe in order to destroy those
who held opinions in opposition to the dominant power. The axe and the
fagot have disappeared; but, alas for human nature! the spirit that
delighted in their use has hot wholly passed away; the flame and sword
it uses now are those of malignity and hatred; it does not scorch or
wound the body, but only burns and slays the reputations of those whom
it assails. Forgetting that the Lord has declared, "judgment is mine,"
it hesitates but little to pass its condemnations upon those who differ
from itself; and if Christian commandments are urged against it, it
passes them by with a sneer, or openly sets them aside as too narrow and
imperfect for the present age. While shrinking from the dangers that
lie in wait for those who devote themselves to one idea in morality
or reform, we should beware of falling into the opposite extreme of
indifference on these same points; and should be sure to give them their
full share of consideration. The ultra conservatism, that holds fast to
existing customs and organizations merely because they are old, or from
the love of conservation, is quite as fatuous as the radicalism that
would destroy the old merely because it is old, or from the love of
destruction. He whose conscience knows no higher sanction or restraint
than the Statute Book, is not enough of a Christian to be a good
citizen; while he who does not respect the Statute Book as the palladium
of his country, is not a citizen worthy the name of Christian. While
striving to remain unbiased by the clamor of party, or the violence
of individuals, we should with equal care avoid the opposite error
of looking with approval, or even with indifference, upon usages or
institutions whose only claim to our forbearance lies in laws or popular
opinions whose deformity should be discovered, and whose power should
melt away beneath the light and warmth of a Christian sun.

True religious life consists in doing the will of God every moment of
our lives. His will must bear upon us everywhere and at all times. Where
the mind is absorbed in some one object of reform, this constant
devotion to duty is almost, if not quite, impossible. The mind becomes
so warped in one direction that it loses the habit, and almost loses the
power, of turning in any other. Hence we rarely hear the word _duty_
from the lips of the reformer. He constantly descants upon rights or
wrongs, while duties seem forgotten. Thus we hear perpetually of the
rights or of the wrongs of man or of woman, of the citizen, or of the
criminal, and of the slave; but the duties of these classes seem to have
passed out of sight. Now it is only when all shall fulfil their several
duties that the rights of all can be respected; and if peace on earth,
and good-will towards men are ever to reign, it must be when piety and
charity shall go hand in hand,--when the human race shall unite as one
to fulfil its duties towards God and towards each other.

Violence of every kind springs from a desire to do one's own will.
Egotism is the sure accompaniment of wrath. The love of God never
constrained any man to villify his brother. He who is bent on the
performance of duty,--who desires simply to do the will of God, is firm
as a rock, but never violent. He prays, with the poet,--

  "Let not this weak, unknowing hand,
  Presume thy bolts to throw;
  And deal damnation round the land,
  On each I judge thy foe."
He remembers that judgment belongs to God; and that the Lord taught
us to pray, "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
against us"; and surely none can hurl denunciation upon a fellow-sinner
if from his heart he offers that prayer.

Possibly the ground may be taken that we should forgive our own personal
enemies, but not the enemies of the Lord, against whom the reformer
directs his wrath. But is the arm of the Lord shortened that he cannot
avenge his own wrongs? and who among mortals is so pure or so strong
that he may dare to say, the Lord has need of him for a champion?

It is deemed just that a soldier should suffer severe punishment if he
act without orders, taking upon himself the authority of a commanding
officer. How much more is he worthy of condemnation who puts himself
in place of God, and under pretence of doing him service, presumes to
transgress his explicit commands.

We are prone to fancy that when we are fond of talking about any object
we are fond of the object itself; but this by no means follows of
course. We may delight in talking about philanthropy while our hearts
are burning with hatred, or about temperance while intoxicated with
passion, or about abolitionism while we have no respect for the liberty
of those around us, and no comprehension of that liberty wherewith
Christ makes his children free; and all this because we are working from
the blind impulses of an unregenerate spirit. When the spirit becomes
regenerate,--taught of God,--it perceives the unity of virtue, and can
never again regard it as a dismembered fragment. Then it knows, that
to do wrong that good may come of it is striving to cast out Satan by
Beelzebub,--an effort that must surely fail. Then it feels that evil is
really overcome only by good. How different will be the reformatory zeal
of this state of the spirit from that which preceded it. Formerly, no
sooner was the subject of reform mentioned than the neck stiffened
and the head tossed itself backward with the excitement of pride and
combativeness, while the tongue poured forth whatever phrases anger
might suggest. Now, how different is the attitude and expression, as
with words of gentleness and love it strives to draw others to perceive
the beauty of purity and justice. Formerly, the whole effort of the mind
was to compel others to come into agreement with itself; now, it strives
to win them into harmony with God. Once, it believed that indignation
could be righteous; now, it knows that anger and heavenly mindedness
dwell far apart; and, if they approach each other, one must perish.

If we would train character into genuine goodness, we should observe
whether evil in ourselves or others offends us because it is contrary
to our own ideas, or because it is opposed to the will of God. If the
former be the case, we shall find ourselves angry; if the latter, we
shall be sorrowful. No one can be angry from love to God. Anger is
in its very nature egotistic and selfish, and has in it nothing of
holiness. Penitence for sin is ever meek and humble, and so is regret
for the sins of others. The moment we find ourselves angry, either
for our own sins or for the sins of others, we may be sure there is
something wrong in our state, and we should stop at once to analyze
our feelings, and find where the trouble lies. If we do this
conscienciously, we shall be sure to find some selfish or worldly
passion at the root of the matter. We shall find that something else
than love to God excited our indignation.

If we find ourselves indulging, habitually and with satisfaction in any
one sin, we may be sure that we have not true hatred for any sin;
for sin is hateful because it is contrary to the infinite wisdom and
goodness of God. If we abhor it for this reason, we shall abhor all sin;
and if we find ourselves hating some sins and loving others, we may be
sure that we hate those which are repugnant to our own tastes, and love
those which are in conformity with them. Thus our measure of sin is in
ourselves, and not in God; and we are putting ourselves in place of
God,--worshipping the idol self, instead of our Father in heaven.

The Lord was very explicit in his teachings regarding the necessity of
the denial of self; but this is the last thing in which we are willing
to obey him. We profess to be willing and eager to do a great deal of
good; but when conscience tells us that we must do the will of God every
moment of our lives, we turn away with a sorrowful countenance; for
there are many things in which we wish to follow our own wills without
stopping to consult the will of God, and we wish to believe that we can
do this and yet be quite virtuous enough to insure salvation. While the
natural man is strong within us, we are ever striving to serve God and
mammon; but when the spiritual man is born, we are willing to give up
all else and follow the Lord. Then, we feel that we cannot be truly
virtuous, because we are, in some points, very scrupulous, while in
others we are very indifferent; for we perceive that goodness is the
harmonious development of the whole Character into accordance with the
will of God.

So long as we labor for ourselves we shall be, at best, only special
reformers, and cultivators of special virtues; but when we are ready to
deny ourselves, and to do the will of God, all sin will become abhorrent
to us, and we shall grow in grace daily until we become perfected in
that symmetrical form of man, which is the image and likeness of God;
and every faculty of the heart and of the head will then be baptized
into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


"It is this trinity of man,--for man is the image of his God, in whom
is the essential Trinity,--under which his whole character must be

Man being created in the image and likeness of God, we must of necessity
find in him a finite organization corresponding with the infinite
organization of the Creator. In the Infinite Divine Trinity there are
the Divine Goodness or Love, the Divine Truth or Wisdom, and the
Divine Operation or the manifestation of the other two in and upon the
universe: in other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the
human, finite trinity, we have, corresponding with these, Affection,
Understanding, and Use, or external life. Divinity being the embodiment
of infinite order, its parts act in a sequence of absolute perfection;
that is, absolute love by means of absolute wisdom exhibits itself in
absolute use. Speaking with exactness, the word sequence is out of place
in this connection, because with the Divinity, love, wisdom, and
operation are simultaneous; but he has separated them in his ultimate
manifestations, and we are obliged to separate them in our analysis,
in order that they may in any degree come within the compass of human

Man, in his primeval innocence, was a genuine image and likeness of
the All-perfect Divinity; perfect after the same manner, but on a
lower plane. There was then no antagonism between the creature and the
Creator; and the finite naturally and joyfully obeyed the infinite; for
in obedience to the will of the Heavenly Father it found sustenance for
the soul as manifestly as in meat and drink for the body. The progress
of time saw the creature turn from the love of God to the love of
self,--from seeking the truth of God to seeking out its own vain
imaginations, and from performing the orderly uses of a life of charity
to all the disorderly indulgencies of selfish passion. Instead of
worshipping the living God, man now invented idols representing his own
evil passions, and bowed before them in adoring admiration; for the
attributes wherewith he clothed them were fitting forces to stimulate
his progress along the pathway he had chosen, where life was made
hideous by the lowering shadows of rapine and murder.

The first Church, represented by Adam and Eve, is the general type of
every Church that has followed it, and of every unregenerate individual
in those Churches. Instead of looking to God as the source of all
wisdom, there is ever the desire to eat of, or make our own, the fruit
of the tree of knowledge, that we may know of _ourselves_ good from
evil; and that we may do of ourselves what seems to us right; and
instead of penitence for sin and an endeavor after reformation, there is
a striving to conceal our unfaithfulness. The covering assumed by those
who, in Scripture, stand as the parents of mankind, is the perpetual
type of the subterfuges we all invent to hide our disobedience from our
God, from our neighbors, nay, even from ourselves. The primal image and
likeness of God has become so defaced, distorted, and broken, that it is
often hard to find a remnant still testifying to its Divine origin. Let
us rise up from among these shattered fragments, and contemplate for a
while the means of bringing the poor, fallen human nature into harmony
with the divine;--let us develop, if we can, a system that may aid us
in training our faculties, so that the Affections shall be pure, the
Understanding wise, and Life the harmonious exponent of both.

In the attempt to restore our being to its original symmetry, the
intellectual part of the nature must not be cultivated at the expense of
the affectional, nor should the affectional be suffered to run riot with
the intellectual. Love must be wise, and wisdom must be affectionate, or
life will fail of its end. External morality has no reliable foundation
unless it be built on morality of thought and affection. Apart from
these, it is either the result of a happy organization that demands no
disorderly indulgence, or it is the figleaf garment of deceit, put on by
those who strive to seem rather than to be.

In the just training of Character, if we first learn to understand the
capacities and relations of Affection, Thought, and Life, and look
within our own natures until we learn to comprehend how everything
pertaining to our being belongs to one of these departments, we shall
better appreciate the difficulties to be overcome before we shall be
willing to make everything that we do the honest outbirth of everything
that we are. Pretence and hypocrisy, subterfuge and falsehood, will then
disappear, and life will become the adequate expression of symmetrical

The intellectual part of our being may be better understood if divided
into two departments, viz., Thought and Imagination,--the subjective and
the objective. Thought can be lifted up into the Affections, and made
manifest in Life only through the medium of the Imagination. Thought is
at first a pure abstraction, a subjective idea,--something entirely
within the mind, and having no relation to conduct,--a seed sown, but
not germinated; and while it remains thus it has no influence upon the
Affections. If, however, it germinate, the next step in its existence is
to become an objective idea; and now it has lost its abstract quality
and become an image. In its first state it is neither agreeable nor
disagreeable to the mind, but so soon as it takes a distinctive form it
becomes either pleasing or displeasing, and is either cast away and
forgotten, or retained arid expanded by the Affections, whose office it
is to cause Thought to become a vital reality, ready to show itself in
the external life so soon as a fitting occasion calls for its

Thought is like water. Sometimes it glides over the mind as over a
bed of rock; neither softening nor fertilizing; but when it is made
a possible reality by the Imagination, and a vital reality by the
Affections, it is now like a stream, flowing through rich farms and
gardens, fertilizing wherever it comes; and again, like waterfalls,
furnishing power to set ideas in motion, that shall give nutriment and
warmth to the souls of millions.

The Lord, when he would condense religion into its narrowest compass,
commands us to love the Heavenly Father with the whole heart and
soul and mind and strength. Can this signify anything else than that
Affection, Imagination, and Thought, in their whole strength, or brought
down into the ultimates of life, must be consecrated to the Divine
Creator of them all? So St. Paul, when he would sum up the whole
Christian system in a single phrase, exclaims: "Faith, Hope, Charity.
The greatest of these is Charity." Faith here expresses the religion of
Thought, Hope the religion of the Imagination, and Charity the
religion of the Affections, which is greatest of all because it is the
vitalization of the other two.

Every act that we voluntarily perform, whether good or evil, first
entered the mind as an abstract Thought; it was then shaped by the
Imagination until it became a definite idea; next, it was claimed as a
child by the Affections; and lastly, it was by the Affections made to
come out into a use of love or an abuse of hate.

Many thoughts die in the mind without passing through all these stages.
We sometimes hear a sermon that fills our Thoughts as we listen, and yet
we forget it all as we turn away from the church door; for it went no
deeper than our Thoughts. At another time, what we hear goes with us to
our homes, haunts us through the week, and perhaps is made a standard
whereby to measure the virtues or the vices of our neighbors; possibly
even, we try ourselves by its rule, and our consciences are roused to
pierce us with the sharp pang of remorse. All this, however, brings no
change over our lives. Here Thought has passed into Imagination, has
become a reality to the mind; but as yet the Affections do not warm
towards it, and so it dies in the second stage of existence. Yet, again,
we listen to the voice of the preacher, and his words abide in the soul
until they quicken our Affections, and as we muse the fire burns. Then
are our eyes lightened to perceive how all that we have heard may become
realized in life; and warmed by the heavenly flame that has descended
upon our altar, our souls kindle with charity, and we go forth to
realize the hope that is within us in works of angelic use.

This process of the mind is not confined to the religious part of our
being. It goes on perpetually in our intellectual no less than our moral
nature. Our success in using whatever we learn in every department,
the wisdom or the folly of everything we do, whether relating to
intellectual, to religious, or to practical life, depends on the
faithfulness with which we apply these three powers to whatever is
presented to them.

Look in upon the assembled members of a school, of any grade from
primary to collegiate, and you will see one set of pupils with stolid
faces conning their tasks, as if they were indeed tasks in the hardest
sense of the term, and then reciting them word for word, in a monotonous
tone, as if their voices came from automata, and not from living
throats. These are they who study only with their Thoughts, and whose
Imaginations and Affections are untouched by all that passes through
their minds. Scattered among the preceding another class may be found,
with quickly glancing eyes, who seem all alive to everything they
study, who recite with earnest tones, and whose faces are bright with
expression. Here the Imagination is at work, and everything the mind
seizes upon stands there at once a living picture. These are the
brilliant scholars, who carry off all the prizes, and win all
admiration. There is still a third class, of a calmer aspect. Its
members may not shine so brightly, but there is more warmth in their
rays. They will not learn so much nor so rapidly as those of the second
class, but their whole being is permeated by what they know. They are
constantly studying the relations of the things that they learn to each
other and to life; and are endeavoring to form themselves in accordance
with the rationality they thus acquire; for their Affections have
fastened themselves upon it, and it is therefore becoming a part of
their being.

When these three classes of pupils become men and women, and go
forth into the various walks of life, the first, if they attempt any
handicraft, are the botchers and bunglers, who bring little more than
their hands to anything that they do; and who, therefore, do nothing
well. They are the dead weights of society, that must be helped through
life by their more active neighbors. If they are scholars, they are
collectors of facts, which they pile up in their memories as a miser
heaps his gold, for no end but the pleasure of heaping. They make
physicians without resource, lawyers without discernment, preachers who
dole out divinity in its baldest and heaviest forms.

Those of the second class are always better in theory than in practice;
for with them zeal ever runs before knowledge. They will delight in
telling how a thing should be done, but will find it very difficult
to do it themselves. A blacksmith of this class will tell with great
exactness how a horse should be shod, but if trusted to perform that
office, ten to one the poor animal will go limping from his hands. So a
carpenter of the same class will be full of plans and fancies that he
will wish to carry out for the benefit of his employers; but his work,
when completed, though perhaps elegant and ornamental, will probably be
inappropriate in appearance, and not adapted to the use for which it
was intended. From this class come inventors of machines that are never
heard of after they get into the patent-office, schemers and speculators
whose plans end in ruin, boon companions, brilliant talkers, sparkling
orators, elegant and ornate poets who sing blithely for their own day
and generation, preachers and statesmen who are ever led away by Utopian
and millennial dreams; in short, men who may shine while they live, but
are seldom remembered when they die.

The third class are men of mark in whatever walk of life they are found;
--men to be relied upon for whatever they may undertake. They are men
who can produce in Life what their Understandings know and imagine;
or, rather, who know how to select from their stores of Thought and
Imagination whatever may be realized in Life. If they are mechanics,
their work is the best of its kind, and precisely adapted to the use
for which it was intended; if they are machinists, their inventions
are those that ameliorate the condition of society; if merchants or
speculators, they do not run after bubbles; if devoted to intellectual
pursuits, they are divines whose thoughts thrill the souls of men
for centuries, founders of new schools of philosophy, lawgivers, and
statesmen who are remembered with gratitude as the fathers of nations,
poets whose words are destined to live so long as the language in which
they write is spoken,--nay, who shall cause their language to be
studied ages after all who spoke it have passed from the face of the

The women who belong to these several classes are characterized in like
manner, though their more retired lives prevent them from displaying
their traits so conspicuously. Those of the first class are dress-makers
whose work never fits, milliners whose bonnets look as if they were
not intended for the wearers, servants who do nothing rightly unless the
eye of their mistress is upon them, teachers whose pupils are taught
as if they were beings without life or reason; and in their highest
relations, as wives and mothers, they are those with whom nothing goes
as it should, whose daily lives are but a succession of mistakes and
catastrophies, whose husbands never find a comfortable home to which
they may return for repose after a day of toil, whose children are
"dragged up, not brought up."

In the second class are servants who have a quick perception of what is
to be done, and who make all that is directly apparent to the eye
look well, but a closer observation shows many an unswept corner and
neglected duty; dress-makers and milliners whose work is ornamental,
tasteful, and becoming, though the ornamentation is apt to be too great
for the value of the material, and the work will now and then come
in pieces for lack of being thoroughly finished; teachers who infuse
brightness and quickness into their scholars, but whose instructions are
more showy than solid. In their housekeeping they understand "putting
the best foot foremost," and making a great deal of ornament where there
may be but little of anything else; but they lack the practical skill
that makes a housekeeper successful in the essentials that constitute
comfort. They will seek to make their children accomplished ladies and
gentlemen, who will be agreeable in society, rather than well-trained
men and women, capable of meeting the duties and emergencies of life.

The third class of women are the reliable ones, wherever they may be
found. They do everything they attempt well, because there is a sense of
fitness and propriety in them which is disturbed by things badly done,
and which gives them an almost intuitive faith, that if a thing is worth
doing at all, it is worth doing well. They are not eye-servants, but
faithful in all things. Thoroughness pervades whatever they do, in all
departments of life. They are not satisfied with making a dress or a
bonnet that is becoming, unless it is well finished and appropriate.
They are the thorough teachers who are willing to have their schools
examined every day in the year, who seek to know the capacities of their
pupils, and to educate them accordingly. They are the mothers whose
children are obedient and trained for the uses of life no less than for
its pleasures; the wives whose husbands are happy in their homes if they
are capable of being happy anywhere.

When we contemplate these three classes of human beings, we perceive
that only one of them can be said to lead successful lives. Two classes,
and both of them painfully numerous, fail. The question rises to the
mind with fearful solemnity, were they created for this end,--created
to fail? Can we for a single moment believe that a Father of infinite
justice and mercy ever created one individual among his children, an
accountable being, neither insane nor idiotic, and yet so imperfect that
he _must_ fail? Surely it were blasphemy to hold such an act possible.
Infinitely various are the works of his hand in the forms of humanity,
as in every other department of the universe, but even so manifold are
the varieties and degrees of service which he prepares for every one
to do. There is a place and a use for every one, and whoever fails of
finding a place and a use fails, not because he was created incompetent,
but because he refuses to cultivate the powers wherewith he is endowed.
Indolence and selfishness, the moth and rust of Character, are corroding
and devouring the delicate organization of the internal man, which can
retain the wholeness and brightness of its powers only by constant use.
We are weak and useless, not because we were created to be so, but
because we do not listen to the voice of conscience when it tells us to
serve the Lord with _all_ our strength, in the very place where we now
are, and at the very time that now is. It is not because the power of
growth is not in them that our talents do not multiply, but because we
fold them in a napkin of indifference, and bury them in the earth of our
lower nature. Understanding and Affection are within us all, and if they
do not develop into a life of use, into a Character that will fit us for
heaven,--and this is what we should always keep before our minds as the
only genuine success,--it is because we have not striven as we might
and ought.

Understanding and Affection are within us all, differing, not in kind,
but only in degree; and they are constantly at work, involuntarily if we
do not voluntarily assume their control. In the little child they work
as involuntarily as the heart beats and the lungs respire; but so soon
as the child is old enough to begin to know the difference between right
and wrong, the action of these powers should begin to be voluntary;
should begin to be under the guidance of conscience.

Some persons call these powers into voluntary action from motives of
mere worldly wisdom. Every one does so who places some object before
himself, and cultivates his powers with a special view to attain
perfection therein. The pickpocket, the gambler, the housebreaker, must
do it before they can attain skill in their depravity. The worldling
does it who follows an honorable profession with all his heart and soul
and mind and strength, seeking only such rewards as Mammon bestows upon
his votaries. Whether all these are to be successful in attaining the
rewards they seek, is a matter of entire uncertainty; for Providence
permits or withholds worldly success in a way that we cannot anticipate,
nor but imperfectly understand. We may bear the heavy yoke of Mammon
until it wear into the very marrow of our bones, and yet gain nothing
but poverty and disgrace. They, however, who by a voluntary action of
the powers endeavor to become perfected in the stature of Christian men
and women,--who seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness,
using all things of this world only as rounds of that ladder whose
summit is in the heavens, even while its base rests upon the earth, are
sure of the reward they seek; and the yoke that they bear will grow more
light and easy with each revolving year.

There are many persons who seem to belong by turns to each of the three
great classes that have been described. These exercise their powers
involuntarily. They cannot be depended upon, for they are not balanced
Characters. If they happen to like what they are doing, or happen to
feel in the mood of doing it, they will do it well; otherwise, they
do not care how badly their work is performed, if it only can be got
through with. They have not waked to the consciousness that we have no
right to do anything badly, because whenever we do so we impair our own
faculties, and thereby diminish our powers of usefulness; while, if the
act concerns any one beside ourselves,--as almost all acts do,--we are
wronging our neighbor.

Many persons are so fortunate, women especially almost always so, as to
have enough employment placed before them by the circumstances of their
position, without any effort of choice on their part, to occupy their
time, and to train their faculties. Those who are not thus set to work
by circumstance should be governed in the selection of their employment
by their own inclination and talents. What we love to do we can learn
to do well, and our work will then be agreeable to us. Many persons
are governed in the choice of employment for themselves or for their
children by a stronger consideration for what is honorable in the eyes
of the world than by talent or taste. Thence it often results that
persons fail ever to fulfil the duties they have chosen in a way to
be satisfactory to any one beside themselves, perhaps not even to
themselves. If they have sufficient force of Character to do well in
spite of not doing what they like, they are still never so happy as
they would have been had inclination been consulted. Where the heart
is really in the employment, work is not a burden, but a natural and
pleasant exercise of the powers; and it becomes comparatively easy to
serve the Lord with all the strength.

Those who are not constrained to work, should remember that a life of
idleness cannot be a life of innocence; for the idle cannot serve the
Lord. A life that does not cultivate one's own capacities, and aid
either in supplying the wants or cultivating the capacities of some one
beside self, is no preparation for heaven; for the heavenly life is one
of perpetual advance, because of untiring use.

There is no station in life where there is not a constant demand for the
exercise of charity. We cannot be in company an hour with any person
without some such demand presenting itself to us. The daily intercourse
of life places it constantly in our power to make some person more or
less happy than he now is, and accordingly as we may choose between
these two modes of action we are fulfilling or setting aside the law of

No class of human beings bears a more heavy weight of responsibility
than that which is placed beyond the necessity of effort; and there is
none whose position has a stronger tendency to blind it to the calls of
duty. Although every gift bestowed upon us by providence, whether of
mind, body, or estate, is but another talent, for the employment of
which we must be one day called to account, yet these added talents too
often excite in us a feeling of superiority which induces us to demand
that others should minister to us, and causes us to forget that he who
would be greatest must be so by doing more and greater services than
others, and not by receiving them.

Persons whose position places them beyond the need of effort, would do
well to select some special study or employment to occupy and develop
their mental life, and save them from the inanity, ennui, and
selfishness that are sure to follow in the footsteps of idleness.
Poverty of mind is rendered all the more prominent and disgusting if
accompanied by external wealth; and to such a mind wealth is but a means
to folly, if to nothing worse.

Neither wealth nor poverty, neither strength nor weakness, neither
genius nor the want of it, neither ten talents nor one, can excuse any
human being from training his faculties in a way to develop them to the
utmost, and forming them into a symmetrical whole, the type of a true

In the following essays it may seem to the reader that there is
contradiction in treating each power of the mind as though its perfect
training resulted in the upbuilding of a perfect Character; but the
union between these capacities is so intimate that one cannot be rightly
trained unless all the others are trained at the same time. We cannot
think wisely unless we imagine truly, and love rightly, as well as
warmly. We cannot love rightly unless we think justly, and imagine
purely; nor can we imagine purely unless we love that which is pure. We
cannot do all this unless we live out what we think, imagine, and love;
for the inner life always acts narrowly and superficially unless it be
widened and deepened by an efficient external life. What we do must
follow closely in the footsteps of what we know, if we would arrive at
breadth and depth of knowledge. So fast as we put in practice what we
know we shall be able to receive more knowledge. We are told by the Lord
that our knowledge of truth shall be enlarged in proportion as we are
obedient to the divine will. "If any man will do his will, he shall know
of the doctrine."

The Divine attributes act simultaneously and equally always and
everywhere, while the triune manifestation is a merciful adaptation of
these attributes to the comprehension of fallen humanity. Were humanity
truly regenerate, the action of its capacities would be simultaneous
and homogeneous. Even in its present state these capacities are so
interlaced that one cannot act strongly without inducing some action in
the others; just as in the physical frame the brain, the heart, and the
lungs can no one of them act unless all act in some degree; while in
perfect health all act in the fulness of perfect harmony, no one organ
rendering itself prominent by being more full of vitality and activity
than another. Disease alone renders us conscious of the action of any
one vital organ, and our moral diseases having destroyed the harmonious
action of our moral powers, thereby rendering it impossible for us to
appreciate the Divinity in the full harmony of unity, we have been
mercifully permitted to attain to such knowledge as is possible to
us through manifestations of the Divine attributes in trinity. In
proportion as our faculties are trained to act in harmony we shall
become unconscious of their separate functions; and in the same
proportion we shall become capable of looking upon the Divinity in the

       *       *       *       *       *


  It is the grandeur of all truth which _can_ occupy a very high place in
  human interests, that it is never absolutely novel to the meanest of
  minds: it exists eternally by way of germ or latent principle in the
  lowest as in the highest, needing to be developed, but never to be
  planted.--DE QUINCEY.

Many persons seem to suppose that the power of Thought, or at least the
power of thinking to any purpose, is a natural gift, possessed by few,
and unattainable by the many. This idea is a very pernicious error, for
one of the traits by which the human being is distinguished from the
brute is the possession of this power; and the progress that every human
being may make in learning to think well has no limit but the universal
one of finite capacity.

The distinction made between thoughtful and thoughtless persons is
commonly one of intellect alone; it should be quite as much one of
morality. Considered intellectually, a thoughtless person cannot be
successful in any but the very lowest walks of life. He brings nothing
but his hands to what he does. If these be strong, he may dig, perhaps,
as well as another man, but he can never make a good farmer; he may
use the axe or the hammer to good purpose, but he can never become a
master-workman. If he attempt anything more or higher than what his
hands can do under the guidance of another's brain, his effort is sure
to be followed by confusion and failure. Viewing a thoughtless person
in a moral light, he cannot be religious, he cannot be virtuous, and,
unless by accident, he cannot even be externally moral. He may, perhaps,
perceive that the grosser forms of wickedness are to be avoided, but he
can have no comprehension of the danger involved in the little vices of
everyday life; and cannot understand how every one of these vices, small
as it may seem, contains within itself the germ of some one of those
great and shocking sins forbidden in the commandments. He will,
therefore, without compunction, go on committing these small sins
until the habit of evil becomes so fixed, that, if he does not end by
committing great ones, it is more frequently from lack of temptation
than from any worthier reason.

The thoughtless person can never be depended upon for anything. We never
know where to find him, or what he will do in any particular position or
relation of life. All we can anticipate of him is, that he will probably
do something bad, or silly, or improper; accordingly as the act may
bear upon morality, sense, or manners.

Before going further, let it be understood that a thoughtless person
is not one without Thought. A human being without Thought is an
impossibility. Most, if not all, idiots think. It is the lack of
coherency, purpose, and effort in Thought that induces the habit of mind
commonly known as thoughtlessness. Without Thought, Imagination, and
Affection, one could not be a human being. Mankind differ from each
other, not in kind, but in degree. It is the low degree of activity in
either of these great divisions of the human mind that causes one to
seem thoughtless, unimaginative, or without affection. The end of all
training should be to develop each one of these faculties so that it
shall coöperate with the others, and all as fully as possible. A just
balance of power is the first requisite, and constant increase of it
the second; just as in the physical frame we ask, first, for just
proportion, and, as the product of this, for strength.

It is often said that no kind of sense is so rare as common sense; and
this is true, simply because common sense is attainable by all far more,
and is a natural gift far less, than most other traits of character.
Common sense is the application of Thought to common things, and it is
rare because most persons will not exercise Thought about common things.
If some important affair occurs, people try then to think, but to
very little purpose; because, not having exercised their powers on small
things, their powers lack the development necessary for great ones.
Hence, thoughtless people, when forced to act in an affair of
importance, blunder through it with no more chance of doing as they
should than one would have of hitting a small or distant mark at a
shooting-match, if previous practice had not given the power of hitting
objects that are large and near.

The thoughtless person perpetually acts and speaks as if it were of
no consequence what is said or done. If any one venture to suggest a
different mode of speech or action, the reply is pretty sure to be, "O,
it is of no consequence!" As if an immortal being, to whom a few short
years of probation had been given, the use or abuse of which must give
character to an eternity to come, could do or say what would have no
consequence! Let any one bring distinctly before himself the great truth
that we stand ever in the presence of the Almighty, stewards of his
bounty, children of his love, and could it be possible for him to
believe that it is of no consequence how that love is returned, and how
that bounty is used? Every word, every act of our lives, is either a use
or an abuse of his bounty, a showing forth either of our love for or our
indifference to him. Therefore, every word and act has a consequence,
ending not with the hour or day, but stretching forward into eternity.
Let this truth be admitted to the mind, and who could dare to be
thoughtless. Who would not wish to return the infinite love poured out
upon us, by consecrating all that we have and all that we are to the
service of the Infinite Father? When this consecration takes place, all
pure aspirations fill the heart, while the mind is ever thinking what is
the best way in which the will of the Lord may be done. Thoughtlessness
has no longer an abiding-place, for the mind now perceives that it must
be about its Father's business, and Thought becomes a delightful and
invigorating exercise, instead of the wearisome effort it seemed before.

If the mind hold to its integrity, without relapsing into its former
state of blind indifference to its high vocation, the cultivation of
the power of Thought will go on steadily and surely, and the mind will
become constantly more and more clarified from all folly and silliness.

When a person brings everything habitually to the standard of right and
wrong, he gradually learns to judge wisely of whatever subject he may
hold under consideration, provided he does not seek for that standard in
his own mind, but in the mind of the Lord, as he has given it to us in
the Word of eternal life. When this standard is sought only in the human
mind, nothing is fixed or permanent, and discord abounds in society much
as it would if the length and breadth of the fingers of each individual
were to be substituted for the standard inch and foot of the nation; but
if the Bible be honestly and humbly received as the standard by which to
judge of right and wrong, mankind would ever abide in brotherly love and
harmonious union. The element of discord is not in God's work, but in
the mind of man; and man becomes truly wise and capable of concord only
so far as, forgetting the devices of his own understanding, he becomes a
recipient of the truth that descends to him from on high.

It may be objected that the Bible has been the fruitful source of
contention and war; and some may suppose it cannot therefore be a
standard of union to the world; but it should be remembered that, when
it has become a cause of dissension, it has been by the perversion of
man, who has separated doctrine from life,--has put asunder that
which God joined. No contention has ever risen in the world regarding
religious life, but many and terrible ones regarding religious doctrine
separated from life; and it is perfectly apparent, that, had those who
were engaged in them, looked to religious life with the same earnestness
they did toward doctrine, all these dissensions must have ceased.
Christian life is, as it were, a building, of which faith is the
foundation. The foundation is subservient to the superstructure, and
should be strong and well laid; but has no value excepting as it is
the support of a worthy building. The Lord is very explicit in all his
teachings on the subject of life, and it is hardly possible that any one
could faithfully study his words, and then exalt abstract doctrine into
the place that belongs of right to Christian life.

Whoever studies the direct teachings of the Lord, recorded by the
Evangelists, and makes them the rules of his Thoughts, must necessarily
be wise. Everything connected with daily life, if his mind be really
permeated with these teachings, takes its proper place before him. He
sees what has a transient, and what a permanent value,--what is merely
temporal, and what eternal; and so learns to appreciate the relative
value of all things. Everything that occurs becomes a subject for his
thoughts to work upon, and while working in heavenly light his mind
grows in wisdom day by day. This action of Thought will not be confined
to events as they occur around him, but whatever is read, all the events
of the past, all art and science, are brought under the same analysis.
The thoughtless person reads merely for the amusement of the moment,
remembers little of what he reads, and that little to no purpose. A
fact is, to such a man, a mere fact standing by itself, and having no
relation to anything else. However much he may read, the thoughtless man
can never be instructed. He is of those who, seeing, perceive not, and
who, hearing, do not understand. The thoughtful person, on the contrary,
reads everything with a purpose. His mind works upon what he reads, and
he is instructed and made intelligent, even though he may see only
with the light of this world. His intelligence will, however, be very
different and very inferior in degree to that of the man who looks at
objects in the light of heaven. He will measure things by an uncertain,
varying standard, and will appreciate things only according to their
temporal value. He will, therefore, never become truly wise. With those
whose minds are nurtured by the words of the Lord, everything is judged
by the standard of eternal truth. Whatever is learned is digested by the
thoughts, and so the powers of the mind are strengthened and enlarged.
Thus the mind becomes constantly more and more wise. The merely
intellectual man has the desire to become wise, but his eye is not
single, and therefore his mind is obscured by many clouds,--the dark
exhalations of worldliness. When a man fixes his eye upon the Lord he is
filled with light, and sees with a clearness of vision such as can be
gained from no other source.

The cultivation of Thought lies at the root of all intellectuality,
while it elevates and enlarges the sphere of the Affections. Affection
is above Thought, but it is sustained and invigorated by its influence.
Thought being the foundation upon which Affection is built, the
strength, permanence and reliability of Affection must depend on the
solidity and justice of the underlying Thought.

The mind may be stored with the most varied and extensive knowledge, and
yet be neither improved nor adorned thereby. Robert Hall once remarked
of an acquaintance, that he had piled such an amount of learning upon
his brain, it could not move under the weight. It is little matter
whether the amount of learning be large or small; the brain is only
encumbered by it, unless it has taken it into its own texture, and made
it by Thought a part of itself. Some persons love facts as a miser loves
gold, merely because they are possessions; but without any desire to
make use of them. A fact or thought is just as valuable in itself as
a piece of money. Gold and silver are neither food, nor raiment, nor
shelter; but we value them because through their means we can obtain all
these. So facts and thoughts are neither rationality, nor wisdom, nor
virtue, and their value lies in their being mediums whereby we may
obtain them all.

Undigested learning is as useless and oppressive as undigested food; and
as in the dyspeptic patient the appetite for food often grows with the
inability to digest it, so in the unthinking patient an overweening
desire to know often accompanies the inability to know to any purpose.
Thought is to the brain what gastric juice is to the stomach,--a
solvent to reduce whatever is received to a condition in which all that
is wholesome and nutritive may be appropriated, and that alone. To learn
merely for the sake of learning, is like eating merely for the taste
of the food. The mind will wax fat and unwieldy, like the body of the
gormand. The stomach is to the frame what memory is to the mind; and it
is as unwise to cultivate the memory at the expense of the mind, as it
would be to enlarge the capacity of the stomach by eating more food than
the wants of the frame require, or food of a quality that it could not
appropriate. To learn in order to become wise makes the mind active and
powerful, like the body of one who is temperate and judicious in meat
and drink. Learning is healthfully digested by the mind when it reflects
upon what is learned, classifies and arranges facts and circumstances,
considers the relations of one to another, and places what is taken into
the mind at different times in relation to the same subjects under their
appropriate heads, so that the various stores are not heterogeneously
piled up, but laid away in order, and may be referred to with ease when
wanted. If a person's daily employments are such as demand a constant
exercise of the thoughts, all the leisure should not be devoted to
reading, but a part reserved for reflecting upon and arranging in the
mind what is read. The manner of reading is much more important than
the quantity. To hurry through many books, retaining only a confused
knowledge of their contents, is but a poor exercise of the brain; it is
far better to read with care a few well-selected volumes.

There is a strong tendency towards superficial culture at the present
day, which is the natural result of the immense amount of books and
periodicals constantly pouring from the press, and tempting readers to
dip a little into almost everything, and to study nothing. Much is said
of the pernicious consequences arising from lectures and periodicals, as
though a short account of anything must of necessity be a superficial
one; but this is far from the truth. A quarto volume on one theme may
be entirely superficial, while a lecture or review-article on the same
theme may contain the whole gist of the matter. Prolixity is oftener
superficial than brevity. Books are superficial if they relate only
to the outside of a subject,--if they describe only its husk; and the
reverse, if they give its kernel. Many an able review-article contains
the kernel of a whole volume, and if the pleased reader of the
review goes to the book itself, expecting to enjoy that in a degree
proportionate to its size, he will often find he has got nothing but a
dry husk for his pains.

Those who have little time for books, but who wish really to know many
things, can accomplish a great deal by being careful to hunt for meats
rather than for shells and husks; for though the outsides of things make
a great show, and can be displayed by the pedant to great advantage
before those who are superficial as himself, they contain no healthful
nutriment for the mind. Take, for instance, the study of botany. Let
a person master the whole vocabulary of the science, and know the
arrangement of its classifications so well that he can turn at once to
the description of any plant he may find. Let him do this until, like
King Solomon, he knows every plant by name, from the "hyssop on the wall
to the cedar of Lebanon"; but if at the same time he knows nothing
more about them than the name, his knowledge of botany is entirely
superficial, though he may have spent a vast deal of time and labor
in its acquisition. Let another person have studied the physiology of
plants till he has learned all that has yet been discovered of their
curious and beautiful structure,--till he appreciates as far as mortals
may the Divine wisdom, that even in the formation of a blade of grass
transcends not only all that man with all his pride of science and
mechanical skill can perform, but goes far--we cannot even guess how
far--beyond all that human intellect can comprehend; and still more if
the mind of this student be lifted upward in adoration as he learns, he
is the true botanist, though he may have studied far less, if we count
by time, than his superficial brother.

So it is with all the sciences. The kernel is what nourishes the
mind,--the knowledge of what God has created, and not the mere power of
repeating the classifications and vocabularies that man has invented to
describe these creations: not that these also have not an eminent use;
but still it is one that should always be esteemed secondary in all our

So, too, it is with history. One may have all the important dates,
names, and facts of the world's history at the tongue's end, and yet be
none the wiser; for such knowledge is but the surface of history. To
know history well, is to have so arranged its facts in the mind that it
may be contemplated as a continuous exhibition of God's providence. It
is to study the succession of events, not as separate units, but as
links of one vast chain, on every one of which is inscribed a phrase
discoursing of the progress of the human race, and showing the growth of
man in the complex, from infancy to adolescence. Further than that, we
can hardly venture to believe the race has yet advanced. Thus studied,
history is the noblest of all sciences, since it treats of the highest
of God's creations; but studied as a mere congeries of facts, all
sciences are alike worthless; and from the mousings of the mere
antiquarian to the dredgings of the student of the shelly coverings of
the Mollusca, all end in naught.

When a person's employment is one that does not require a constant
exercise of the thoughts, there is the greater need of a constant supply
of nutritious food for the mind, that it may be growing all the time by
reflection, and thus be saved from falling into a morbid state, such
as too often results from long confinement to an occupation demanding
little exertion of its powers. The farmer at his plough, the mechanic at
his bench, the seamstress at her needle, and a host of others, too
often suffer the thoughts to wander into realms of morbid egotism and
discontent, when, if they would turn them upon moral or intellectual
themes, they might be growing wiser and better every day.

It may be objected, that those who are obliged to work hard through the
whole week cannot, on the Sabbath, take enough intellectual food to last
them for Thought during the week. Every person can, if he will, find
time for a chapter in the Bible every day, and therein lies wisdom, that
all humanity combined can never exhaust, and which ever opens richer
stores the more it is wrought upon. Then the human race are everywhere
around us, and every individual is a volume to be read. We are vexed,
and perhaps tormented, by the vices or foibles of those with whom we
are thrown in contact. Let us not stop in vexation, but study our own
hearts, and see if there is not some kindred vice or foible in ourselves
that perhaps troubles our friends quite as much as this disturbs us; for
it is often the case that our own vices, when we meet them in others,
are precisely those which irritate us most; and we are almost always
more irritable through our vices than through our virtues. Again, we
find persons exciting our admiration through their virtues. Let us not
stop in cold admiration, but reflect how we may engraft similar virtues
upon our own souls. It is deep and earnest Thought alone that can teach
us to know ourselves, and without this knowledge we are in constant
danger of cherishing repulsive vices such as we should abhor in others,
and of neglecting the culture of virtues such as in others we esteem
indispensable. Society at large, too, is around us, and domestic
circles, with all their complex relations, their jarring discords, or
their heavenly harmonies; and all are full of food for Thought. The true
and the false, the right and the wrong, are everywhere, and the highest
wisdom is to be able to distinguish one from the other. He who has
spent his whole life in intellectual pursuits may, in this greatest
wisdom,--the only wisdom that belongs to eternity equally with time,--be
the veriest fool; while he who has patiently and prayerfully and
obediently studied no book but the Bible may be so taught of God that he
shall possess all that man while on earth can possess of this highest

It is beautifully said by William von Humboldt, that "exactly those
joyful truths which are the most needful to man--the holiest and
the greatest--lie open to the simplest, plainest mind; nay, are not
unfrequently better, and even more entirely, grasped by such a one,
than by him whose greater knowledge more dissipates his thoughts. These
truths, too, have this peculiarity, that, although they want no profound
research to attain to them, but rather make their own way in the mind,
there is always something new to be found in them, because they are in
themselves inexhaustible and endless."

While the Bible is left to us, while human beings surround us, while our
own souls are to be cleansed, renewed, and saved, we miserably deceive
ourselves if we think we lack material for Thought. We are thinking
perpetually, whether we will or no, and let us look to it that we think
to some good purpose. How much Thought is worse than wasted in planning
how wealth, which too often profiteth not, may be acquired, while the
true riches that the Lord is ever offering for our acceptance are
forgotten! How often are the Thoughts poisoned with envying the lands of
one's neighbor, while one's own soul is lying an uncultivated waste.
How often is the mind cankered with vexation at the intellectual
achievements of an old schoolmate, whom in school days we never deemed
wiser than ourselves, when all that has wrought the present difference
between us is, that he thought and strove while we dreamed and loitered.

In its purely religious action, Thought is the fountain of that Faith
which forms the base of St. Paul's trinity of the primal elements
of Character,--the foundation upon which hope and charity are to be
elevated. How important, then, is it that this foundation should be
wisely laid! Many persons think much in relation to religious subjects
from the love of metaphysical reasoning; while their lives are not
influenced by the doctrines they profess. This is an abuse of Thought,
one of its fruits is bigotry. The more strongly a man confirms himself
in any doctrine that he does not apply to life, the more elevated he
becomes in his own estimation,--the more puffed up with spiritual
pride,--the more full of contempt and hatred towards those who disagree
with him. With such persons, purity of life is as nothing compared with
faith in a certain set of dogmas. There are some who think much of the
vices of life, but always in relation to their neighbors, and thereby
engender that form of bigotry called misanthropy. Both these classes
misuse the faculty of Thought, making it subserve the purposes of
contempt and hatred and debasing narrow-mindedness, instead of
ministering to Christian love, that hopeth all things of its brother,
and judges as it would be judged.

The more we study human nature out of ourselves, and in the light of the
Understanding, the less we love it; but the reverse takes place when we
study our own hearts at the same time that we study the characters of
our fellow-beings, and both in the light of Christian truth. We cannot
hate our fellow-beings while we perceive that we are all of one
family,--while we feel our own weakness and sinfulness; and we cannot
despair of human nature while we believe that Infinite Wisdom has become
its Redeemer and Saviour.

If Thought be strongly turned towards religious subjects, the mind must
necessarily form to itself many doctrines which will be its true creed,
whatever external form of Church creed it may avow, or even if it
disavow all creeds. At the present day, it is not uncommon to hear
creeds spoken of with contempt, as the effete remains of a past age;
and the remark is often made, that it is of no consequence what a man
believes if he do but lead a good life. The religious opinions we hold
constitute the morality of our internal life; and it is difficult to
understand how internal morality can be of no consequence, while
external morality is of so much. It would seem that external morality is
but a mask, unless it truly represent the internal morality. Still it is
not surprising that many superficial observers should be found ready to
express their aversion to creeds, when we consider the abuses into which
Churches and Governments have rushed in their efforts to establish and
maintain their favorite dogmas; or when we observe how the bigoted
supporters of creeds become blinded to every other consideration, and
learn to look upon life as of little importance when compared with
doctrine. It was probably in contemplation of such bigotry that the
Apostle exclaims, "Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee
my faith by my works." This saying is often quoted in defence of the
idea that faith is of no consequence compared with works; but this is no
logical deduction from the text. "I will show thee my faith by my works"
expresses no disregard or undervaluing of faith, but asserts the great
truth that faith becomes a living reality only when it forms itself into
works. The quality of works depends, not on the works themselves, but
upon the faith that inspires them. For instance, three men of equal
wealth may each give the same sum of money to some charity. Externally
the act is the same in each individual, yet the common sense of the very
same persons who a few moments before may have asserted that faith is
nothing, and works everything, does not hesitate to estimate it in a
totally different manner. One of the donors has made up his mind that
ease is the only good. He has taught himself to believe that it is
wise to avoid all trouble, and to give rather than make the effort of
resisting importunity; and he gives because he carries this belief into
effect. Another is an ambitious man, who believes that power and the
good opinion of society are the best among good things; and he gives
to obtain the praise of men and the influence in society which follows
praise. The third believes that the first good of life is making others
happy, and with systematic benevolence examines every claim upon his
bounty, and, if he finds it worthy, never dismisses it unsatisfied. It
was the faith within the act that gave this distinctive quality to the
three donations. The first put his faith in ease, the second in the
opinion of the world, and the third in doing good to the neighbor; and
the common sense of the community judges the actions accordingly. All
the actions of life range themselves under one or other of the three
heads represented by these gifts; namely, the love of self, or ease; the
love of the world, or ambition; and the love of the neighbor, or true
charity. Every man is probably governed in turn by each of these loves;
but in every man one of them takes the lead and dominates over the other
two; and just in proportion as he gives himself up to the dominion
of one of these loves and rejects the sway of the others he leads a
consistent life. Society may assert that life is everything, and faith
nothing, when it talks abstractly; but its common sense ever shows more
wisdom by transferring the quality of the motive to the act, as often as
it finds any clew to the knowledge of motive. Of course, society makes
many blunders in these judgments, because it reads the heart of man
very imperfectly; but the nature of man leads him constantly to attempt
penetrating the heart before forming his opinion of an action.

There is no need of restricting the word creed to the forms of faith
adopted by particular churches. Whatever a man believes is his creed,
and every man has a creed, however much he may be opposed to forms of
faith; and this creed is the rule of his life, however strongly he may
assert, and however implicitly believe, that faith is of no importance.
Take, for instance, a man who devotes his whole energies to the pursuit
of riches from a conviction that they are the greatest good this world
affords. If he have large caution, he will take care not to break the
laws of the land; but everything short of that he will do to attain his
loved object. Perhaps he has large love of approbation; he will then
be a little more cautious, and will do nothing that can injure his
reputation as a gentleman; at least unless he believes that what he does
will not be known in society. Perhaps, however, he has neither of these
restraining traits, and is of a violent disposition; he will then be
ready to rob or murder, if such means seem to promise to give him his
desires. Shall we say this man has no creed, when his faith in the value
of riches impels him to devote body and soul to the acquisition of gain?
Does not his creed run thus: "I believe in gold as the one great good,
and for this will I sacrifice all else that I possess." And does not his
life and death devotion to this creed put to shame the feeble efforts of
many of us who believe that we devote ourselves to more worthy ends?

So it is with those who employ themselves exclusively in the attainment
of intellectual wealth. Faith that this is the one great good incites
them to unwearied labor,--causes them to forget food, sleep, friends,
everything, in order that they may acquire abundant stores of learning;
and all because they have taken as their creed, "I believe that learning
is better than all beside, and for this will I labor day and night."

So it is with the ambitious man. Who labors more devotedly than he; ever
keeping his creed in mind, "I believe that power and reputation are
above all other possessions, and to gain them I will sacrifice time,
labor, truth, and justice."

So it is with every man and every woman the world over. The slothful
even--those who seem impelled to nothing--refrain from effort because
they put their faith in idleness as the one thing above all others

Mankind are possessed of Understanding no less than Affection; and by
this, their inherent nature, they are compelled to believe no less than
to love. It is vain to talk of cultivating the Affections that charity
may be perfected in humanity, and at the same time omit all care of the
faith. The mind will and must believe so long as it continues to think;
and it is as unsafe to leave it without cultivation as to abandon the
heart to the instruction of chance. The question is not, shall we or
shall we not adopt a creed; for however strongly we may resist, we
cannot refrain from holding one; but, what creed shall we adopt?
Accordingly as we answer this question so will the measure of bur wisdom
be both here and hereafter.

The human race may, in this respect, be divided into three
classes,--those who adopt good creeds, those who adopt evil creeds, and
those who, too indolent or too heedless distinctly to adopt any rule of
life, spend their days in vascillating between the two; but the latter,
by reason of the greater tendency to sin than to holiness inherent with
the human race, tend, year by year, more and more decidedly towards the

It is impossible that any person should lead a consistent life unless a
creed be adopted and steadfastly acted upon; because unless one holds
distinct opinions in relation to life and duty, one is drawn hither and
thither by impulse and passion, as the mind's mood varies from time to
time, so that the words and actions of to-day will be often in direct
opposition to those which were yesterday, or which will be to-morrow.

In order to lead a life worthy an immortal being, a child of God, the
first step to be taken is to come to a distinct understanding of
what one wishes to be and to do. The biographies of those who have
distinguished themselves in the world, either for goodness or for
greatness, frequently show that in early life they adopted certain modes
and directions of effort, and have attained to eminence by steadily
persevering in one direction. Among the papers of these persons, written
rules have been found which they have laid down for themselves as
creeds, and in harmony with which they have built up their Characters;
and herein lies the secret of their success.

The living in accordance with such creeds will not insure greatness or
distinguished reputation, because after all our efforts, no one can be
sure of worldly and external success. Events which it was impossible
to provide for, or even to foresee, will often confound the best
preparations of humanity, because the providence of God overrules all
the events of life, according to the eternal dictates of infinite
wisdom and mercy,--a wisdom that knows when it is best for us to succeed
and when to fail in our wishes and endeavors, and a mercy which, looking
to our eternal welfare, sometimes makes us sorrowful here that we may
the more rejoice hereafter.

Perhaps the cause which most frequently prevents the adoption of a creed
is the failing to recognize the seriousness of life in this world. Few
persons can be found so senseless or so reckless as not to recognize the
seriousness of death. Probably few could look upon the solemn stillness
of the lifeless human countenance without a feeling of awe at the
thought that ere long their day too must come when the beating of
the busy heart shall cease, and the now quick blood shall stay its
course,--when the hand shall lose its cunning and the brain its power.
Such impressions are too often transitory, passing away with the object
that awoke them, because persons do not stop to consider why it is that
solemnity and awe pervade the presence of death. If they did, they would
feel that this solemnity was reflected upon life, and life would became
to them serious as death. Both would be serious, but neither sorrowful;
for then death would lose its terror and would be looked forward to
simply as the beginning of eternal life. The solemnity of life lies in
the fact that it is a preparation for eternity; and the solemnity of
death in the fact that the preparation is over and the eternity begun.
In all this there is no cause of sadness, but infinite cause for
thoughtful seriousness.

When the true solemnity of life is comprehended, and the Character is
moulded in accordance with the ideas that in consequence possess the
soul, a growth of the whole nature is induced that prevents all the
repulsive characteristics of old age. Too often old age is utterly
disagreeable through the indulgence of ill-temper, fretfulness, and
selfish indifference to the wishes and pleasures of the young. Such
traits of Character could never possess us if the true import of
life were comprehended, and the Character formed in harmony with its
teachings. A Character that grows in grace daily must become more and
more beautiful and attractive with advancing years. Each day, as it
finds it better fitted for heaven, must find it less sullied by the
imperfections of earth.

We sometimes see persons discontented and peevish because they are
old,--because they feel that they must soon pass away from the
earth. Could this be, if they believed that life on earth was only
a preparation for an eternal life in heaven? Could they shrink with
aversion at the thought of death if they believed it to be the portal of
heaven? The follies and the vices, the weariness and the sadness, the
discontent and the moroseness of life, all spring from the want of a
just conception of its relations and its value, such as can be attained
only by calm, deliberate reflection, out of which wise opinions evolve,
and are gradually shaped into a creed such as forms the bone and muscle
of a wise and noble Character.

Evil is ever the result of the abuse of some good; for nothing was
created evil. The narrow creeds of various churches, by which men's
souls have been unworthily bound, have sprung from the falsification of
the fact that man requires faith in truth that he may be able to lead a
life of goodness. Had the makers of these creeds gone directly to
the Bible for their materials, instead of looking into their own
minds,--had they been content to accept the Ten Commandments given to
the Jewish, or the Two given to the Christian Church, much mischief
might have been avoided; but, not satisfied with the simplicity and
directness of God's word, they built up creeds from their own minds, not
as guides to a holy life, but as chains to compel the minds of other men
into harmony with their own. Just in proportion to the energy with which
they strove to impress themselves upon the people through these creeds
was their indifference to that life' of holiness which should be the end
of all creeds.

The centuries that have passed since the Christian dispensation was
proclaimed have many of them been darkened even to blackness by insane
endeavors to write creeds of man's devising, in letters of fire and
blood, upon the nations. The day for such deeds has passed away from
most lands calling themselves Christian; and now men are inclining to
rush into the opposite extreme, and to mistake licentiousness in belief
for liberty of conscience. Such an extreme naturally follows the
opposite one that preceded it; but out of the anarchy of faith that now
prevails the providence of God. will surely, in his own good time, lift
up his children into the liberty wherewith those who obey him are made
free. Then will it be understood that the truth is not a chain to bind
the soul, but a shining light illuminating all the dark places of the
earth, and pouring into every soul that worthily receives it a living
warmth, that shall clothe the whole being with the beautiful garments
of heavenly charity. Then shall it be seen that all true creeds are
contained within the two commandments of the Son of God. Thou shalt love
the Lord with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength; and thy
neighbor as thyself.


Imagination rules the world.--NAPOLEON.

Imagination is the mediatrix, the nurse, the mover of all the several
parts of our spiritual organism. "Without her, all our ideas stagnate,
all our conceptions wither, all our perceptions become rough and

Imagination is that power of the mind by which it forms pictures or
images within itself. Thought is but a shapeless, lifeless entity, until
Imagination moulds it into form. We cannot bring what we know out into
life until Imagination presents it to the Affections as a possible
reality. Thought is an uncreative power, and gives form to nothing.
Imagination is a more positive power, and can impart form to everything
in thought. Thought acts subjectively, while Imagination is more
objective in its operations. Thought is, by itself, a pure abstraction:
passing into the Imagination it becomes a possible reality, and in the
Affections a vital reality. The Affections cannot love or hate anything
while it is a mere Thought; but when it becomes an image, it is at
once an object either of attraction or repulsion. Thought, therefore,
can be lifted up into the Affections, and then be made manifest in life,
only through the medium of the Imagination.

It has been remarked by a celebrated writer, that all great discoverers,
inventors, and mathematicians have been largely endowed with
Imagination. It might with equal truth have been added, that all
successful persons in every department of life are endowed with an
Imagination commensurate in power with that of the other faculties. To
the mechanic in his shop, no less than to the student in his cell, is it
requisite that he should be able to form a distinct image in his mind
of whatever he wishes to perform. So the teacher, the preacher, and the
parent labor in vain unless there is clearly imaged in their minds the
end to be attained by education and discipline. It is idle to seek for
means to accomplish anything until there is a distinct image in the mind
of the thing that is to be done. If there be such a thing as an "airy
nothing," it is a thought before Imagination has given it a "local
habitation and a name." When Shakespeare said it was the office of the
poet to carry on this transformation, he announced one of those great
general facts which are equally true of every other human being. It is
in degree, and not in kind, that one man differs from another. In this,
the poet is but the type of what every human being must be, if he would
be anything better than a dead weight in society, incapable of success
in any department of life.

Let no one fold his hands supinely, and say, I have no Imagination; and
therefore, if this doctrine be true, my life must be a failure. You may
possibly have but one talent while your neighbor has ten, but you
are just as responsible for the cultivation and enlargement of your
endowment as your neighbor for his. Had the parable been reversed, and
had he who was endowed with five talents hidden them in the earth while
he who had one doubled his lord's money, the condemnation and the
acceptance would likewise have been reversed. Unless a man be so far
idiotic that he is not an accountable being, we blaspheme the goodness
of God, if we say there is nothing he is capable of doing well.

The action of the Imagination may be best illustrated by example.
Previous to the days of Columbus, many sea-captains believed that there
was a Western Continent; but their belief was a cold faith, existing
only in Thought. When the ardent mind of Columbus received the
same belief, Imagination speedily formed it into a reality of such
distinctness that faith changed to hope, and then Affection brooded upon
it until his whole being was absorbed by the determination that he would
be the discoverer of this unknown world. The image of this land was
a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of flame by night, leading him
onward in spite of every discouragement and disappointment. Others might
lose their courage, or die of weariness by the way; but his was that
deathless enthusiasm that knows neither despair nor doubt. To this
intense Imagination the world owes a new continent, and it is to
such Imaginations that it owes almost, if not quite, all the great
discoveries and inventions that have ever been made. There are those who
love to believe that such things are in the main the result of accident;
but it is only to the thoughtful and the imaginative that accident
speaks. To the dull and the indifferent it is utterly dumb.

What is life but one long chain of accidents, if by accident we
understand all that falls out without our own intention or volition. We
cannot control these accidents. There is a power above circumstance and
accident that controls them, as gravitation controls the motions of
material things. We can only turn them at our will, and make use of
them, as the machinist turns the power of gravitation to serve his

Quick-witted persons are those who have the power of rapidly seeing the
relations of things in every-day life,--whose Thoughts grasp, and whose
Imaginations shape with dextrous rapidity, the little accidents of the
hour, and turn them to advantage. Persons of resource are those who have
a deeper Thought, a more earnest Imagination; and who can therefore
lay hold of great principles, and unusual circumstances, with a
power adequate to meet great 'emergencies, and to make use of great
opportunities. If we trample sluggishness and indifference under our
feet, if we do with a will whatever we undertake, determining to do it
as well as we possibly can, we shall become quick-witted in small works,
and full of resource in large undertakings.

The Imagination is often talked of as if it were a useless part of our
being, which should be put down and discouraged as much as possible;
as if the Creator had endowed us with a power we did not need. So
imaginative persons are spoken of with contempt, and here there is more
justice; for, in common parlance, to be imaginative means to have the
Imagination developed out of all proportion with the other powers. This
is, perhaps, quite as bad as to have an insufficiency. What we should
desire is a balance of powers. Imagination should not run away with
Thought and Affection, but neither should it lag behind them. All must
act harmoniously and equally in a symmetrically developed Character.
They are like the three legs of a tripod; and if either is longer or
shorter than the others, or worse still, if no two are alike in length,
the tripod must be an awkward and useless piece of lumber, instead of
the graceful and useful article for which it was intended.

Whatever is to be done, from the discovery of a continent to the making
of a shoe or a loaf, can be done well only by a person of Imagination.
Go to a shoemaker and tell him exactly what you wish for a shoe, and it
is your imagination that gives you the power of telling him so that
he can understand your wishes. Every one can think, "I want a pair of
shoes," but one must have Imagination to know what kind of shoe one
wants, and a clear, distinct Imagination to be able to describe it
intelligibly to another. Suppose you have this, and have told the
shoemaker what you desire. Now, whether the man sends home to you a pair
of misfits, quite different from those you ordered, or a pair just such
as you want, depends in no small degree on his powers of Imagination.
Any man can think enough to fasten materials together into the form of a
shoe, and to make them vary in size according to a regular gradation of
numbers; but this is all he can do unless he exercises his Imagination.
Unless the image of a shoe, as you hold it in your Imagination, was
transferred distinctly to the Imagination of the other, you will look in
vain to find it translated into a material reality. So it is with
your cook. She cannot make a nice loaf of bread, or prepare a dinner
properly, by merely thinking as she works. The idea of a light loaf or
of a well-cooked dinner must be distinctly in her mind, or you will eat
with a disappointed palate.

It is needless to multiply examples here. We have but to look around us
and see them everywhere.

Works of Imagination, of course, come in for their share of opprobium
from those who, instead of striving to regenerate all the universal
characteristics of humanity, would cut off and cast from it all those
traits with which they least sympathize. In spite of their opposition,
the mountain of fiction grows higher and higher every day, and the
multitude throng its pathways to gather that food for the Imagination
that is rarely given it in other compositions. Let the moralist talk
and write against this as he may, it will be of no use, for the mass
of human minds will never take an interest in any book that does not
address itself to the Imagination. From the beginning of the world until
now, no teacher and no writer was ever popular unless he addressed
himself, in part at least, to the Imagination of the world.

When the Father of History read his nine books before the Greeks at the
Olympic Games, and the people hung hour after hour and day after day
upon his words, it was not merely because he glorified their victories
that they listened with delight, but because he told the story with such
vividness that every hearer beheld the on-goings of the tale pictured in
his own Imagination. It was no dull recital of dry facts, the mere bone
and muscle of History that he offered them, but the living story, the
warm blood pulsating through it all, and every nerve instinct with life,
In our own day, if the historian would forget the so-called dignity of
History, which is but another name for lifelessness, and after having
filled his mind with a clear, bright image of what he would relate,
would present his story vividly to the Imagination of the reader, we
should have no more complaints of the dulness of History. Who ever found
Irving or Prescott dull? and yet they are accurate and faithful as the
most stately and oracular. The carping critic may sneer at them because
they are not philosophical and profound; but to have been read with
delight by thousands who would never have reached a second chapter had
they been other than they are, may well satisfy their ambition, and make
them careless of the opinion of the critic. Such writers belong to the
_Republic_ of letters, not to that literary _Oligarchy_ which insists
that books should be written according to certain conventional rules
which have been manufactured in the closet, instead of looking at the
wants of the human mind, and then addressing themselves to those wants.

The class of minds that crave instruction for its own sake must always
be very small; and it is this class alone that will read books in spite
of their lack of imaginative power. Authors have no right to complain
that their wise books lie unread by the multitude, if they persist in
overlooking the nature of the human mind, and addressing themselves
to what they think it ought to be instead of what it really is. They
expatiate admiringly upon the simplicity and vividness of the style
of Herodotus, and upon the classic taste of the Athenian public in
appreciating him; and then, forgetting that the public of our own day
are quick to admire the same traits, turn to their desks and write their
histories as unlike as possible to him whom they have been praising.

The same repulsive want of Imagination too often characterizes Theology
and Metaphysics, and prevents mankind from receiving the instruction
from works on these topics that they need. In the early days of
man's history, Religion and Philosophy addressed themselves to the
Imagination, and then the people listened to their teachings; but
gradually these heaven-born teachers turned more and more away from
Imagination and towards Thought,--lost themselves in abstractions, dried
up, withered, and changed into Theology and Metaphysics; and then the
people turned wearily away from their words; and were they to blame?
They wanted bread, and only stones were given to them. The multitude
would not have followed the Lord, and listened with admiring wonder
to his instructions, had they not been addressed to the Imagination.
Infinite Wisdom clothed itself in parables, that the people might be
instructed, and the people thronged to hear. The truths of Philosophy
and Religion are of an interest more universal to humanity than the
truths of all other science, for the first is to know one's self, and
the second to know one's God; and yet the majority of teachers cover
them with such a body of technicalities and abstractions, that it is
vain for the mass of mankind to endeavor to penetrate to the soul

If the clergy of the Protestant Church would spend more strength in
illustrating the Infinite Wisdom contained in the parables of the Lord,
and less in amplifying the abstractions of St. Paul, they would gather
around them bands of listeners far more numerous and more devout than
those that now attend their ministrations. It was one of the grand
mistakes of that Church, at its first separation from the Romish, that,
in its terror of the worship of material images, it passed into the
opposite extreme of the worship of abstractions. This is one reason why
Protestantism has made no advance in Europe since the death of the first
Reformers, and why there is so little vital religion among the races by
whom it was adopted.

Much has been done of late to render the natural sciences familiar and
attractive to the popular mind, by lectures and books that bring them
within the comprehension of all: and it is to be hoped, that, beginning
thus with the material parts of the universe, mankind may be gradually
led from matter to mind, from science to religion. The forms of external
things are easily reproduced in the mind as images, and this is why
natural science addresses itself more readily to the mind than any other
branch of learning. When men learn to look within, and perceive that
the things of the mind are as genuine realities as the objects of the
external world, Philosophy will become attractive; and when the preacher
warms Theology into Religion by abandoning the technicalities of
abstractions for the living realities of piety towards God and charity
towards the neighbor, he will rejoice in a listening audience.

The amount and the quality of that which we call originality, creative
power, or genius, is entirely dependent upon the activity, force, and
integrity of the Imagination. Talent belongs to Thought, and works only
with facts and ideas as others have done before. It may be skilful,
sensible, and faithful, but it can walk only in the old, beaten tracks.
It can classify and arrange, but it can never discover or invent. Talent
can understand and admire the mechanical powers; Genius puts them in
harness, and makes them traverse land and sea to do his bidding. Talent
loves to gaze on the fair forms of nature, and depicts them upon canvas
with skill and truth, neither adding to nor subtracting from its model.
Genius seizes upon the hints that nature gives, and without being false
to her, makes use only of that which helps to make up the beautiful, the
sublime, or the terrible; showing the power that is within nature rather
than nature herself. Talent sees life as it is, and so describes it, if
it ventures into the domain of literature. Genius sees life as it is
capable of being, and hence comes poetry and romance, depicting heroes
and heroines, monsters and fiends, types rather than representatives of
the human race. Talent perceives only the actualities of things, Genius
their possibilities. Talent is content with things as they are, while
Genius is ever striving to bring out latent capacities in whatever it
deals with. If true to its higher impulses, Genius is ever striving to
come nearer "the first good, first perfect, and first fair"; if false,
it degrades and deforms everything it touches.

Mankind differ from each other in degree, but not in kind. By his power
of thinking, a man has talent; by his power of imagining, genius.
Quick-wittedness is genius in its lowest form,--genius applied to
material life in its daily ongoings. The power for resource in
emergencies is genius in a higher form. Invention--the putting together
with an adequate purpose two things or ideas that never went together
before--is genius in another form.

Admitting that men differ from each other, not in kind, but in degree,
the question arises, Are all men capable of an equal degree of
development? This may best be answered by comparison. All men are alike
in the general conformation of their bodies; all have the same number of
physical organs, designed for the same purposes. The relative power of
these organs is, however, very different in different individuals.
One has a fine muscular frame, and delights in exercises of physical
strength, while effort of the brain is a weariness to him. Another has
a finely developed brain, and delights in intellectual labor, while his
strength of muscle is hardly sufficient for the absolute needs of life.
One has the digestion of an ostrich, while another lives only by painful
abstinence; and so on with indefinite variety. We know that much may
be done by well-directed effort to overcome the weaknesses and
imperfections of the body; but still there is a limit to this, and all
men cannot be strong and healthy alike. So it is with the powers of the
mind. All men have the same number of powers,--this constitutes their
humanity; but the relative force of their development varies in each
individual. We know that a determined will works wonders in overcoming
the defects of the body, and it can do more in overcoming the defects
of the mind, because the spiritual body of man is far more docile
and flexible to the will than the natural body; but there must be
limitations here likewise: still, progress is eternal, and no man can
tell beforehand of how much he is capable.

In cultivating the powers of the mind, the first step is to admit
distinctly to one's self the fact of human responsibility; to feel that
we are stewards to whom the Lord has intrusted certain talents, and that
we are responsible to him for the use we make of them. Indolence will
perhaps tell us that we are of very little consequence, and that it
is not worth while for us to trouble ourselves about developing our
understandings; that it is vanity in us to suppose that we can be of
much use in the world; that we have but little leisure, and may as well
amuse ourselves with books and society; for we need recreation, wearied
as we are with the cares of life. Let us answer each of these excuses by
itself; and first, we are of so little consequence. If the tempter
take this form to slacken your efforts, tell him you are one of God's
children, and therefore, by your birthright, of eternal consequence;
that he who is faithful in the least things thereby proves his capacity
for being faithful in much, and that by showing your willingness to
serve the Lord in the small things of life, you are fitting yourself for
serving him in large things, if not in this world, yet in the world to
come. Moreover, is not every one of the highest consequence to himself;
and is not the least of human beings as much interested to save his own
soul as the greatest? Then, as to use in this world, you are responsible
to the fullest extent of your abilities for the influence you exert in
your sphere as entirely as is the greatest of human beings in his. No
one is so small that he brings no influence to bear upon the social
circle; no one so insignificant that he does not exert an influence,
even by the expression of his countenance, though he may speak no word.
Where can we find a circle that is not shadowed, as by a cloud, if one
countenance appears within it darkened by sullenness, ill-humor, or
discontent? Where one that is not warmed and cheered, as by a sunbeam,
if one enters it whose features glow with good-humor, contentment, and
satisfaction? Then does not the command to love our neighbor make us
even responsible for the expressions our faces wear? In relation to the
plea for recreation and amusement, it can readily be shown how these may
be made subservient to a true and high cultivation of the understanding.
While few are slow to admit our accountability in all that relates to
the cultivation of the Affections, many seem to suppose, that in what
relates to the Understanding we may, without wrong, follow our own
inclinations. This opinion comes from a false estimate of the nature
and uses of the Understanding. If considered as a mere receptacle for
Latin and Greek, Mathematics and Metaphysics, Science and Literature, we
may, without moral turpitude or virtue, abstractly considered, follow
our own inclinations; but the Understanding will all the time be growing
either stronger or weaker, wiser or more foolish, whether we study them
or whether we let them alone. This action of the Understanding cannot go
on without influencing the Affections. The one is as much the gift of
God as the other, and each alike demands a healthful nutriment. An
Understanding whose attributes are ignorance and folly can never promote
a healthful growth of the Affections.

It has been already said that the Understanding of a great majority of
human beings can be reached only through its imaginative side. Every one
who is accustomed to children knows that this is universally true of
them. Tell a child an abstract truth, and it falls dead upon his ear;
but illustrate the same truth in a little story, and he is quick to
estimate its justice. This continues true of most persons during their
whole lives, so that it is vain to attempt touching their minds in any
other way than by presenting them with some image illustrating the truth
inculcated. Those who are capable of receiving an abstract truth without
such an image are frequently so from the fact that the moment such a
truth is presented to their Understanding, their Imagination is prompt
to furnish the corresponding image. Unless this is done either by the
speaker or the listener, the truth is apt to be only a useless piece of
lumber stored away in the thoughts. The whole secret of the fascinating
power of the novelist lies in his telling us of all that is most
interesting to humanity, and presenting everything to the mind in

Most persons have so many duties to perform, that they have little time
for voluntary employment, and then they want recreation, which, if they
read, they say they can gain only through works of Imagination. There is
nothing to object to in this, if such works be well selected and read
wisely. There are many bad ways of reading novels; but there are two
to be especially avoided; firstly, vitiating the Affections by reading
impure novels; and secondly, weakening the powers of the Understanding
by glancing through novels merely for the sake of the story. To
read novels of doubtful or bad morality is as likely to corrupt the
Affections as to associate with low and wicked companions. There is an
abundant supply of pure and noble compositions of this sort on which the
Imagination may feed without fear. If it morbidly craves the licentious
pictures that come from the pen of such writers as Ainsworth or George
Sand, its longings should be resisted as steadfastly as those which
incline us to the gaming table or other scenes of licentious indulgence.
On the other hand, the danger to the Understanding from skimming novels
is far too much overlooked. It is not recreation, but dissipation, not
a renewal, but a destruction, of the powers to read in this way. If you
would be benefited by what you read, learn to read critically. Look at
the characters, and see if they be natural and well drawn; observe the
morality, and see if it be true or false; examine the style, and see if
it be good or bad, graceful or awkward, distinct or vague. Novel-writing
is one of the fine arts, and by looking upon it as such, you may
cultivate your taste and discrimination to an extent you little dream

Imagination is the marriage of Thought and Affection, and the Fine Arts
are its first-born children, and represent humanity in all its phases
more fully and truly than any other department of art or science. What
we know as the useful arts, which are born of man's love for physical
ease and pleasure, are of comparatively modern date; but history
goes not back to the time when the mind of man first took delight in
fashioning and admiring the products of the fine arts. Many suppose them
God-given and coeval with the birth of man. Music, painting, sculpture,
poetry, and romance are the five departments of the fine arts. When
these are studied and loved merely for amusement, they are of little or
no use; if they are made vehicles for filling the mind with impure and
evil images, they are shocking abuses; but if they subserve pure and
holy purposes, elevating the soul towards all that is beautiful and
good, they are true Apostles of the Word. Their ministrations are almost
if not quite universal. It would be hard to find a human being whose
soul is not stirred by one or other of them.

Comparatively few persons have it in their power to enjoy the delight
and the refining influence that are derived from the highest exhibitions
of skill in those departments of the fine arts that address themselves
to the eye and the ear; but poetry and romance, the most intellectual
and the most varied of them all, are accessible to every one. As those
blessings that are far off and difficult to be attained are usually
those which are most highly prized, we often find persons sighing for
the culture to be obtained from music, painting, and sculpture, and
overlooking or undervaluing the higher culture to be derived from poetry
and romance. The best gifts of Heaven are always those which are most
universal. Let any one read the plays of Shakespeare, the poems of
Milton, and the novels of Scott carefully and critically as he would
study a gallery of pictures, and he will find his taste refined and
elevated as much as it could be by a visit to the Vatican. The genius of
these authors is to the full as high and noble and original as that of
Raphael, Angelo, or Titian. The means of culture are not far-fetched and
dear-bought. They lie around us everywhere, and to make use of them is a
luxurious recreation of the mind. What mother, wearied and worn by the
cares of maternity, what laborer, exhausted with toil, what student,
faint with striving for fame, but would be refreshed and renewed for
the warfare of life by forgetting it all for a little while in the
realms of the ideal world?

The common, vulgar misuse of novel-reading by the silly, the
empty-headed, and the corrupt, should not blind us to its benefits.
There are those who in music, painting, and sculpture find only
nutriment for sensuality and impurity. Shall we, therefore, deny to all,
and banish from the world the refining ministrations of beauty in form
and color and sweet sounds? As justly may we wage war upon the wayside
flowers because the children are now and then tardy at school from
stopping to gather them. The Creator could never have strown beauty
broadcast upon the face of the earth if it had no use. The very
abundance of this nutriment offered to our love of beauty is evidence
of its value; the very fact that we can abuse this love so fearfully is
proof of its capacity for elevated usefulness.

Reading good works of Imagination in the thoughtful way that has been
described will be very likely to rouse an action in the mind that will
make it crave something more solid; and all should learn, if possible,
to love instructive books. The brain that is overtasked by muscular
labor--for the nervous energy of the brain is exhausted by physical
effort as well as by mental--is the only one that is excusable for
refreshing itself only with images from the ideal world. There are
Sabbaths of rest to all sometimes, when opportunity may be found to gain
something of a more nutritious quality; when, through biography we may
learn to know some good and great character that will ever after stand
in the mind an image of excellence to cheer us on our way, and make us
feel with joy that there is power in us to do likewise; or perhaps some
book of science that will enlarge our ideas of the wisdom and goodness
of the Creator of us all. It should ever be remembered, that those
whose minds are empty of images of goodness and truth are, almost of
necessity, constantly becoming more and more full of images of evil and
falsehood. Jealousy, envy, discontent, and love of scandal, are among
the earliest products of an idle, empty mind. We are not, however,
dependent upon, books for the means of cultivating the Imagination.
There is a training of this power within itself, a morality of
Imagination, that daily life compels us to observe if we would be
practical, moral beings.

The first requisites in a healthy, well-developed Imagination are truth
and distinctness. To those who deem Imagination but another name for
fiction and falsehood, it may seem a contradiction in terms to talk of a
true Imagination; but it is not so. Works of fiction charm us always in
proportion as they seem true, and it is the morbid Imagination only that
delights in falsehood. We sometimes see persons who, without apparent
intention of falsehood, seem incapable of speaking the truth. If they
relate a circumstance that has passed under their own observation, or
describe anything that they have seen, they add here and diminish there,
distort this and give a new color to that, in such a manner that the
hearer receives an impression of nothing as it really is. If there seem
to be no malicious or evil design in all this, such persons are commonly
called very imaginative; they should be called persons of unregulated,
unprincipled Imaginations. They do not bring Imagination under the sway
of conscience, and their power of appreciating the truth will grow less
and less until Imagination becomes a living lie.

Visionary persons form another class of those who do not regulate
Imagination by the laws of him who is truth itself. With these,
Imagination is as false in relation to that which is to come, as with
the last described in relation to that which has already been. In their
plans of life they reason from fancy instead of from fact, and their
Imaginations are filled with fantastic visions of things impossible,
instead of the clear, bright images of that, which may rationally be
expected to come to pass. Such persons perpetually wasting their powers
by trying to do so many things that they can do nothing well, or by
striving to do some one thing that is impossible; thus rendering
themselves comparatively useless in society, and often even mischievous.
To avoid this error, it is needful to go back perpetually to Thought in
order to obtain a solid foundation for Imagination to build upon. As
Imagination passes to and fro between Thought and Affection, it must
remember that it is a messenger from one to the other, and must not
invent tales on the way, and so deceive Affection into acts of folly.
The facts of the message must be precisely such as Thought gave them,
while their costume may be such as Imagination would have it. Thus the
Affections will be roused to action in proportion as the eloquence of
the Imagination is more or less intense, When it speaks in "words that
burn," if it speak from itself, it will rouse the Affections to wild
fanaticism; but if it speak from Thought, it will waken enthusiasm in
the heart, such as shall bear it steadfastly onward in the path of duty,
"without haste and without rest." Distinctness of Imagination may be
cultivated by carefully observing things we wish to remember, and
then calling up their forms before the mind's eye, and endeavoring to
describe them just as they are, in words, by writing, or by drawing;
and then reexamining to see where we have erred, and correcting our
mistakes. If this be done from a genuine love of truth, the Imagination
will soon become accurate and trustworthy. In reading, strive to bring
what is read before the mind's eye, and so impress it upon the memory
in images. This process quickens the power of memory, and enables it to
retain much more than it otherwise could. If the writer be imaginative,
it is easily done; but if not, we must strive to make up for his
deficiencies by our own efforts. Reading history and travels,
constant reference to maps and pictures fixes facts upon the memory
simply by transferring them to the Imagination. Memory is not a faculty
by itself. What we only think about we remember feebly; what we image in
our minds we remember much more strongly; what we love we never forget
while we continue to love it.

In cultivating the Imagination, we must be sure to allow Thought to go
with it hand in hand; remembering that the two together make up the
Understanding. We must be careful to search conscientiously for true
thoughts before allowing Imagination to shape them into forms. In order
to find the truth, we must love it for its own sake, and must seek it
with straightforward earnestness, because we believe it needful to the
building up of Character. If we seek it from any less worthy motive, our
sight will become morbid, we shall lose the power of knowing it when
it is found, and shall be liable to mistake for it some miserable
falsehood. If we allow Imagination too much liberty, zeal will run
before knowledge; if we allow it too little, knowledge will run before
zeal. In the former, case we shall be liable to fanaticism; in the
latter, to sluggishness. In the former case we shall be ready to
undertake to do anything that attracts us, whether we know how to do
it or not; in the latter, we shall not be willing to try to do what we
might. The lack of Affection prevents us from desiring to do a thing,
the lack of Imagination makes us think we cannot do a thing, the lack of
Thought of course makes it impossible to do a thing; for we cannot do a
thing till we know that it is to be done.

In our religion, Thought gives us faith, Imagination gives us hope, and
Affection gives us charity. Religion does not become a personal matter
to us until it takes the form of hope. While it is simply a thing of
thought it is cold, barren faith, and we care nothing for it; but when
Imagination touches it, faith is changed to hope, and we begin to
perceive that religion is a thing to be desired in our own persons.
Religious fear, too, is the child of Imagination. Devils believe and
tremble, because they hate goodness. Angels believe and hope, because
they love it.

Every one has within his mind an imaginary heaven, within and around
which all cherished images arrange themselves, according as they are
more or less dear. We should search our minds, and learn what are the
attributes of our heaven, if we would know whether we are tending
towards the true heaven that is prepared for those who order their lives
aright. We shall, if we do this, be sure to find that there are certain
images rising very often in our minds, into which our thoughts seem to
crystallize when disturbed by no interruption from without; and these.
images make up all that we believe of heaven; they are the kingdom of
heaven within us. We may, with our lips, acknowledge faith in a pure
heaven wherein dwelleth righteousness; but unless our ideas fall
habitually into forms of purity, there is no genuine faith in such a
heavenly kingdom. We truly believe only in what we love. We may learn
from books and from instructors a great deal about the science of
goodness, and may talk of such knowledge until we fancy that we should
be happy in a heaven where goodness reigned triumphant; and yet we may
be entirely deceived in this fancy, and our hearts may all the while be
fixed on things so entirely apart from the true heaven, that nothing
could make us more miserable than the being forced to dwell within its
gates. If we would test the quality of our faith, we must watch the
images and pictures that rise habitually before our mind's eye in our
hours of reverie; for they faithfully represent the secret affections of
the heart. If these images are forms of purity and goodness, it is well
with us; the kingdom of heaven is truly there; but if they represent
only forms of things that belong to this world, if dress and equipage
and social distinction haunt our longings, if visions of pride,
vain-glory, and luxury are ever prompt to rise,--visions that belong
only to the love of self and of the world,--visions that do not beckon
us onward to the performance of duty, but only entice us with the
allurements of sensuality and self-indulgence; or still worse, if
discontent, envy, and malice darken the temple of Imagination with their
scowls, the kingdom of heaven is far from us as the antipodes. This
imaginary heaven that selfishness and worldliness have built up within
us is in truth but an emanation from hell. We may talk of heaven, and
observe its outward forms all our lives while harboring this demoniacal
crew within; and we shall grow ever harder and colder with intolerance
and bigotry under their influence; nor can we ever have that joy in
heavenly hope that belongs to those whose hearts cleave to all that is
pure and true, and whose souls are therefore filled with the imagery of

We cannot expect, in this life, to attain to a state of regeneration so
entire that no images of evil shall ever come to our souls; but we may
hope to become so far advanced that we shall not welcome and entertain
them when they come; but shall recognize them at once as often as they
appear, and drive them from us. This much, however, we cannot do with
our own strength, for that is weakness; but if we strive, looking ever
to the Lord, whose strength is freely given to all who devoutly ask his
aid, we shall be armed as with the flaming sword of cherubim, turning
every way to guard the tree of life.


Love is the Life of Man.--SWEDENBORG.

With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.--ST. PAUL.

The Affections are the most interior of all the attributes of man,--they
are in fact his spiritual life. The acquisitions of the Understanding
truly appertain to man only when the Affections have set their seal upon
them. We may store our memories with knowledge and wisdom gathered from
every source, but until they are grasped by the Affections they do
not belong to us; for till then they do not become part and parcel of
ourselves. So long as we merely know a thing we make no use of it. The
facts of knowledge, as they lie in the Understanding, may exhibit a rank
growth of thoughts and images; but though flowers may adorn them, they
will all perish barrenly; while, if the warmth of the Affections is
thrown upon them, the rich clusters of fruit speedily appear; not
only affording present delight, but promising to be the parents of
numerous offspring yet to come.

The Affections cannot be analyzed and comprehended with the same kind of
distinctness with which we comprehend Thought and Imagination; because
that which belongs to the Understanding can be expressed or described
in words, and in that form be passed from one to another; while the
Affections exist only in forms of emotion that cannot be distinctly
translated into words. A glance of the eye or a touch of the hand often
transfers an emotion from one mind to another with a facility and
clearness of which words are incapable. There are no things we believe
so completely as those which we _feel_ to be true, yet there are none
about which we reason so imperfectly.

The motive-power in man is Affection. What he loves he wills, and what
he wills he performs. Our Character is the complex of all that we love.
We often think we love traits of Character that we cannot possess; but
we deceive ourselves. All that we truly love we strive to attain,
and all that we strive after rightly we do attain. The cause of
self-deception on this point is, that we think we love a certain trait
of Character when we only love its reward; or that we hate other traits
when we only hate their punishment.

The passionate man perceives that his ungoverned temper causes him
trouble, and occasions him to commit acts of injustice, and to say
things for which he is afterwards ashamed; and he exclaims, "I wish I
could acquire self-control; but alas! a hasty temper is natural to me,
and I cannot overcome it." Tell such a man that he is just what he loves
to be, and he will deny it without hesitation; and yet the love of
combating and of overcoming by force are the darling loves of his heart;
and when he fancies that he is wishing to overcome these propensities,
he is thinking only of the worldly injury his temper may occasion him,
and not of the hatefulness of anger in itself. So soon as we begin to
hate anger for its own sake we begin to put it away; but while we only
hate the bad consequences of anger we cleave to its indulgence. So it is
with indolence. We know, perhaps, that we are indolent, and we perceive
that this vice stands in the way of our attaining to many things that
we desire, and we believe that we wish to become diligent, when we are
steadfastly loving a life of indolence, and wishing not for diligence,
but for its rewards. What we suppose to be dislike of indolence is only
dislike of the consequences that indolence brings in its train. So the
drunkard sometimes goes to his grave cheating himself with the idea that
the lust of the flesh binds and enslaves him; and that he really loves
the virtue of temperance, while in truth he is loving sensual indulgence
with all his heart. Possibly temperance reformers might be more
successful in reclaiming such slaves from their sin if they would talk
less of the punishments the drunkard brings upon himself in the shape
of poverty, and disease, and shame, and enlarge more upon the moral
degradation to his own soul which he fastens upon himself both for this
life and the life to come.

We are all of us perpetually liable to gross self-deception by thus
transferring in fancy our love or our hate for the consequences of vices
or virtues to the vices or virtues themselves. If we made this transfer
in fact, we should at once set about gaining the one and putting away
the other; but so long as we believe that sin dwells within us without
our consent and approval we become daily more and more the servants of

We not unfrequently see a very poor family having an intense desire for
education, and their poverty, instead of putting its acquisition out of
their reach, seems only to stimulate their ardor of pursuit. One half of
their time will perhaps be spent in the most arduous labor in order to
procure the means of obtaining the aid of books and teachers to enrich
the other half; and no self-denial in dress or physical indulgence seems
painful, when weighed against the pleasure of increasing the means of
education. Here is genuine love of learning, and the result of its
efforts will prove the truth of the old adage, "Where there is a
will there is a way." This family is acting out its life's love
understandingly and with fixed purpose.

Perhaps in the very next house to this is another family of not nearly
so small property. They too profess great love of and desire for
education; but there is no corresponding effort. They must dress with a
certain degree of gentility, and they must not make an effort to earn
money by any means that would seem to lower their standing in society;
and, moreover, they are indolent, and the effort that the denial of
physical indulgences requires seems insupportable to them. The parents
of this family will often be heard lamenting that their children cannot
have an education; and if one should venture to indicate the possibility
of their obtaining one for themselves as their neighbors are doing, they
will reply that their children have not strength to struggle along in
that way, or that they are too proud to get an education in a way that
would seem to place them in point of social rank below any of their
fellow-students. This family are acting out their life's love just as
thoroughly, though not as understandingly, as the other. They do not
desire education from love for it, but because it would give them a
certain standing in society, and not having the means of indulging
vanity in this direction, they turn to dress and idleness, as easier
signs of what is vulgarly called gentility. Still these persons would
deem you unjust and unkind if you told them they were living in
ignorance because they had no true love for education; and they would
hardly deem you sane should you tell them that the Character of every
human being is the sum and continent and expression of all that he best

We cannot truly love anything that we do not understand,--anything that
has not a distinct existence in our thoughts and imaginations; and all
of Character that we love and can clearly image to ourselves we can
bring out into life. The Affections are the children of the Will, and
if the Will be determined and steadfast, there is no limit but the
finiteness of humanity to the progress in whatever is undertaken. When
we love ardently, all effort seems light compared with the good we
expect to derive from the possession of that which we love. If we become
weary and faint by the way, it is because we lack intensity of love.

In reading the lives of distinguished men, we find that, in the pursuit
of whatever has raised them above the mass of men, they knew no
discouragement, acknowledged no impossibility. We read of travellers
who, to satisfy a burning curiosity for discovery, pass through peril
and fatigue that is fearful for us even to think of; and yet they, so
intense was their love for what they sought, encountered all with a
determination that made suffering and danger indifferent, nay, almost
acceptable to them. So the inventor labors, year after year, through
poverty and privation, compensated for all by the anticipation of the
satisfaction that will be his when his darling object is attained. So
the student, the philanthropist, the statesman, labors in like manner,
lighted by thought, cheered by imagination, warmed by love. Needful as
may be the light and the cheer, it is the warmth only that can give
life. We may know and imagine, and yet perform nothing; but when love
is wakened, performance becomes a necessity of our being; and every
sacrifice of momentary pleasure we make in order to obtain the fruition
of our desires is not only without pain, but it is sweet as self-denial
to a lover, if perchance he may give pleasure thereby to the object of
his passion. It is the merest self-delusion for any one to sit still and
say, "I love this or I love that trait of Character; but it is not in my
powder to gain it." They who love do not sit still and lament. Love is
ever up and doing and striving. They who sit still and lament, love the
indulgence of their own indolence better than aught else, and what they
love they attain. .

It is of course impossible that all should become distinguished by the
efforts they may make in life; and this is not what we should aim at
in the training of Character. To be distinguished implies something
comparative,--implies, if we aim after becoming so, that we seek to be
superior to others. This is not an aim that can be admitted in Christian
training. Character is something between us and our God, and every
thought we admit that savors of rivalry or emulation in our efforts
degrades them, and takes from them the sanctity that can alone insure
success. The moment that finds us saying, "I am glad that I am better
than my neighbor," or even, "I desire to be better than I wish to see
him," that moment finds us destitute of a true conception of Christian
charity. We cannot attain to a healthy growth of Character until,
smitten by the beauty of excellence, we worship its perfection in our
Lord and Saviour, and with hearts fixed on him, strive, trusting in his
aid, to be perfect even as he is perfect. In this effort we must shut
out from our hearts every emotion that cannot be admitted into our
prayers to him for light and strength. Are we sorrowful that our
neighbor is gaining upon the way faster than ourselves, let us remember
that this emotion is virtually a prayer that his strength may be
lessened for our sake; and let us change it as quickly as we can to a
more earnest longing after our own growth, without comparing ourselves
with any human being. Elation, if we think we have passed another in the
race, is a vice of the same character as envy at another for surpassing
us. Such envy and such elation are children of that pride of heart that
shuts the door on all brotherly love. It is that vice by which Cain
fell, and so far as we admit it into our bosoms we voluntarily become
the children of Cain.

The Lord tells us to seek first the kingdom of heaven and its
righteousness, and that all other good things shall be added unto us.
We cannot suppose he meant by this that the reward of virtue was to be
found in houses and lands, or worldly wealth of any kind, although he
enumerated these things in the promise; for we know that these are,
perhaps, as often possessed in abundance by the basest of men as by the
most virtuous. How, then, are we to understand this promise? To seek the
kingdom of heaven and its righteousness is to serve the Lord with all
the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength; and the rewards appropriate
to such service surely cannot be counted in silver and gold. These may
adorn the happiness that virtue gives; but they cannot constitute it.
He who labors simply for the love of wealth is content if he obtain
the reward he seeks; but he who labors to obtain the fully developed
character of a man,--the image and likeness of God,--if he attain
nothing beyond wealth, would feel such reward to be only a mockery
of his desires. Such labor lifts us above the happiness external
possessions can give, and bestows upon us a wealth that the world cannot
take away. He who wishes to serve God acceptably, cultivates all his
capacities to the best of his ability, in order to increase his power
of leading a useful life, and is therefore constantly adding to
himself possessions that can never leave him;--rational and spiritual
possessions which, in relation to our internal life, correspond to
worldly possessions in relation to our external life, and were therefore
signified in the parabolic language of the Lord.

When the philosopher of old lost the library he had been all his
life-long collecting, he exclaimed, "My books have done me little
service if they have not taught me to live happily without them." He had
made their contents his own by diligent study, and no power could take
this from him, and they had made him wise by their instructions, so that
he could possess his soul in patience under external losses of any kind.
The man who studies books, though he may not own a volume, makes them
his own far more completely than the bibliomaniac who spends a fortune
in filling his library with choice editions of works life is not long
enough to read. So it is with works of art. He who can most truly
appreciate them is he who really owns them. One man will fill his house
with pictures and statues and all beautiful works of art, because the
possession of such things gives distinction in society. He collects
them, not because he loves art, but because he loves himself; and
values them precisely in proportion to the sums of money they have cost
him. Those among his visitors who love art for its own sake, and have
learned to appreciate such things justly, have a pleasure incomparably
more interior and profound in gazing upon them than he who rejoices in
having paid large sums of money for them; and surely no one of such
visitors would exchange his power of appreciation for the others
external possession of them. Who, then, is the true owner, if not he who
feels most delight in contemplating them, and who has the most delicate
perception of all their shades of beauty?

In the highest of all enjoyments of the eye, that which we derive from
the contemplation of external nature, the man whose soul is most deeply
thrilled by its beauty, whose heart rises in worship as he gazes upon
the mountains in their calm sublimity, and remembers how the Lord
frequented such heights for prayer, and who wanders beneath, the shadows
of the woods, feeling that "the groves were God's first temples," this
man surely has the kingdoms of the earth in closer possession than he
who holds thousands of acres in fee.

Whatever possessions we can name, whether external or internal, whether
of the heart, the head, or the hand, it is love by which we truly hold
them. Nothing is ours that we do not love, and through love we obtain
possession of all that our hearts crave.

The love, however, that is so strong to obtain must be no superficial
sentiment, but an inward passion of the heart. So long as we live in
thought and imagination we are very apt to mistake mere sentiment for
love; but the difference will show itself so soon as we begin to act.
Sentiment is soon wearied by labor and difficulty in its pursuit of
mental attainment, soon disgusted by squalor or offended by ingratitude
in its attempts at benevolence, soon discouraged by the hardness of its
own heart when it endeavors to acquire self-control, or to gain such
virtues as seem in the abstract lovely and delightful. In short,
sentiment wants a royal road to whatever it strives to reach. Love, on
the contrary, is too much in earnest to be dismayed by any impediment.
It will not stop half-way and make excuses for its short-comings. It
rests not in its course until it has gained what it seeks; and then it
rests not long, for all true love "grows by what it feeds on," and every
height of excellence we reach does but enlarge the field of vision and
show us new countries to be won.

Admitting love to be, indeed, this intense and all-pervading power, and
the very life of our souls, the importance of training ourselves to love
only that which is pure and true at once becomes manifest. The heights
of heaven are not farther from the depths of hell than are the results
that come to us if we seek the pure and the true from those which
inevitably occur when the choice falls upon the impure and the false.
Let no one think to dwell in safety because he has not deliberately said
to himself, "I choose the impure and the false"; for if the pure and the
true be not deliberately and voluntarily chosen, the heart out of
its own inherent selfishness and worldliness will unconsciously sink
gradually, but surely, into the impure and the false. There is no
half-way resting-place for humanity between good and evil. We are always
sinking, unless we are rising; going backward, unless we are pressing

Much is said of the truth and purity of childhood, and they are very
beautiful, for the angels that care for children do continually behold
the face of the Heavenly Father,--do stand perpetually within the
sphere of absolute truth and purity. But soon the child slips the
leading-strings of its guardian spirit, and comes into its own liberty;
and now, unless it freely chooses to follow with willing and constant
step in the same path wherein it has thus far been led, it will wander
from side to side, increasing at each turning the distance that
separates it from the way of life, until at last it may wander so far
that it loses the desire and even the memory which might lead it
to return. Vicious propensities will, perhaps, begin to show
themselves; and in the hardened and shameless youth it will be hard to
recognize any trace of the innocence of infancy. But, perhaps, instead
of viciousness, carelessness is developed, and youth is brightened by
gayety, amiability, and ready generosity. Occasional derelictions from
truth and honor find ready apologists among friends, because the boy or
the girl is so "good-hearted"; but a closer inspection readily shows
that the goodness of heart is very superficial, that the left hand is
often unjust while the right is generous, that a lie is no offence to
the conscience, if it be a good-natured one, and in short that very
little dependence can be placed on the uprightness that has no firmer
base than good-heartedness. Young persons of this sort are sometimes
led away to commit some act so base that their eyes are opened to the
dangers that beset the path in which they are travelling, and in sorrow
and dismay they turn to seek the way of innocence whence they had
wandered. Too often, however, the carelessness of youth passes into the
indifference of adult life and the callousness of old age. What can be
more revolting than an old age cold, hard, and selfish? Yet this is the
natural and almost unavoidable result of a youth that does not fix its
heart in unwavering love upon truth and purity,--whose aspirations are
not for those things which cannot grow old, and which the world can
neither give nor take away. A heart filled with love for excellence can
never grow old; for it will go on increasing in all that is lovely and
gracious so long as it lives; and where there is perpetual growth of the
faculties there can be no decay. We grow old, not by wear, but by rust;
and we can never become the prey of rust while our faculties are kept
bright by the power and the exercise of earnest love. The fleshly body
must grow old and die, for it is of the earth earthy; but it is by our
own weakness and indolence if our spiritual body ever gathers a wrinkle
on its brow. When the fleshly body drops from us, what must be our
shame and our despair if we rise in a spiritual body deformed with evil
passions, or corrupt with the leprosy of sin. Too many, alas! spend all
their energies in feeding and clothing and sheltering the natural body,
leaving the spiritual body hungry and naked and cold. We sometimes hear
wonder expressed that a mind thus starved has become super-annuated and
doating, while the body still carries on its functions with vigor; but
had the body been treated with a similar neglect, it would have long
before returned to the dust. The growth of the spiritual body should be
continuous from the cradle through eternity; and seldom can any other
reason, than our own neglect, be assigned for its disease or decay. The
bread of life is perpetually offered for its support, and if it refuses
to eat, its death is on its own head.

Infants who pass into the spiritual world before they are touched by a
taint of earth are, probably, through the absence of all evil in those
who are suffered to approach them, trained into a purity of Affection
that fills their whole being with its genial warmth, descending, or
raying out, into all the imaginations of the soul and all the thoughts
of the mind. Thus they serve God in the order which the Saviour
commanded, with all the heart, and soul, and mind. They, however, who
remain long on earth, almost without exception, have the order of their
nature so reversed, that their powers must be converted to the right,
in the order of St. Paul, ascending from the lowest to the highest; or,
which is the same thing, passing from the outmost to the inmost. The
lowest and most external part of the being must be made obedient to the
laws of Divine Order, and on this as a foundation must the higher and
internal nature be built up, until it forms a sanctuary; and upon its
altar shall fire from heaven descend so often as a gift is offered.

The practice of external vice, just in proportion to its grossness,
incapacitates us for perceiving what is true or loving what is good. By
vice is not meant crime such as exposes us to punishment by the law
of the land, but sins against the laws of God, that bring their own
punishment with them, by defacing the image of God in the soul. There is
always need of searching the heart to find if we have committed crimes
against the soul; for the laws of the land deal only with the excessive
derelictions from right which we cannot ignorantly commit. We may,
however, go on unconsciously in the commission of great sins until our
hearts become hardened against all emotions of heavenly affection, and
our eyes blinded so that we cannot distinguish the difference between
darkness and light. If we would avoid this fearful condition, we must
often go to the Gospels, and place the words of the Lord, in their
various teachings, especially as they come to us from the Mount, as it
were in judgment over against us, and reading verse by verse, fathom the
depths of our hearts, and confess whether we are guilty or no. Would we
escape such guilt, we must study these instructions again and again,
until, as Moses commanded of the laws of the elder Scripture, "they
shall be with us when we sit in our homes, or walk by the way, or lie
down, or rise up. And we shall bind them for a sign upon our hands, and
they shall be as frontlets between our eyes. And we shall write them
upon the posts of our houses, and upon our gates."

When we place the words of the Lord in judgment over against us, and
feel compelled to acknowledge our unfaithfulness to their requirements,
there is danger of our falling into despair through the consciousness
that is thus forced upon us of our want of love for the law of the Lord.
The indulgence of our own wills is so sweet to us, that we cannot see
how it is possible that the yoke of the Lord can ever become easy to our
stiffened necks. We feel as though an obedience that did not spring from
true love could not be called obedience, nay, was almost a sin; for it
seems to savor of hypocrisy. In this state of mind, our only refuge is
in that faith which St. Paul tells us "is the substance of things hoped
for, the evidence of things unseen"; and then, unless this faith be
strong enough to make us obey, though not from love, yet from a simple
belief that at any rate obedience is better than disobedience, our state
is wretched indeed. Our rationality tells us that obedience is naught
unless we love to obey, but an inward conviction of the soul--may we not
call it the voice of God?--entreats us, saying, "this do, and thou shalt
live." If, in the ardor of our faith, we can forget our rationality, and
cry, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief"; and if we force
ourselves to do that which we are commanded, though at first it may
appear to us an act purely external and dead, we shall soon find, that,
if planted in darkness, it is still a living seed, and the Lord will
water it till it shall spring into a growth of beauty that our hearts
will cleave to with delight.

The first obedience of the soul that has entered upon the way of
regeneration is hardly less ignorant than that of the little child who
obeys his parent without comprehending the use or propriety of his
commands; and, like that of the little child, it consists in abstaining
from doing that which is wrong, rather than in doing that which is
right. As the child grows older, he can look back upon those commands
and understand them; and then he is filled with gratitude and love
towards his parent for putting them upon him. So he who seeks to love
the Lord must obey first, and understand afterward,--must keep the
commandments ere he can know the doctrines,--must abstain from doing
wrong before the Lord can implant in his heart the love of doing right.

In the first stages of regenerating life we think we love the Lord,
although we know that we do not love our fellow-beings as we ought; and
we cannot comprehend the truth, that he who does not love his brother,
whom he has seen, cannot love the Lord, whom he has not seen; and we
think it is much easier to be pious towards God than to be charitable
towards men. If our faith is strong enough to induce us to obey the
external commandment of doing as we would be done by, the affection of
true brotherly love by degrees grows up within us, we know not how, for
the spirit of God has breathed upon us when we were not aware; and then
we perceive how imperfect was the love we bore to the Lord, when we had
not learned to feel that the attribute which awakens true love for him
is the perfect love he bears towards each one of us, and that we can
appreciate this love only so far as we imitate it by feeling willing to
do all the good we can to every neighbor, without distinction of person,
after the manner in which he causes the sun to shine and the rain to
fall alike upon the evil and upon the good.

To live thus in charity with all men is not to do external acts of
benevolence indiscriminately to all, without respect of person. There
is a common, but erroneous, idea in the world, that simply to give is
charity. To live what many esteem a life of charity, that is a life
of indiscriminate giving, is often to pay a bounty upon idleness and
improvidence, and to furnish the means of vicious indulgence. While
remembering the command to give to those who ask, we must not forget the
prohibition against casting pearls before swine. To give good things
to those we have reason to suppose will abuse them is as wrong as to
withhold our gifts from those who would use them. To give ignorantly,
when we know not the value of the claim upon our benevolence, is at best
but a negative virtue, and we should bear in mind that everything we
bestow upon the unworthy is so much abridged from our means of aiding
the worthy. Many persons seem to suppose that charity consists entirely
in alms-giving, while this is only its lowest form. Kind deeds and kind
words are as truly works of charity as pecuniary gifts, and we do not
lead lives of charity unless we are as ready with those in the home
circle and in our social relations as with these among the poor. God
shows his love to his children by providing them with sustenance for
the body, for the intellect, and for the affections, and if we would
resemble him, we must show our love to the neighbor by being always
ready to minister to the wants of those around us, in whatever form they
may arise.

We are told to give even as we receive, and we are also told that we are
stewards of the Lord; that is, that all our gifts are held in trust from
him; and we must use them in such a way that at his coming he may
find his own with usury. True charity never impoverishes. In outward
possessions it would be hard to find a man who has made himself poor by
acts of benevolence, for a just and wise benevolence is almost sure to
be accompanied by an orderly development of the faculties such as in our
country makes prosperity almost certain. In intellectual attainments
most persons are familiar with the fact, that there is no way by which
we can so thoroughly confirm and make clear in our own minds anything
that we know, as by imparting it to another. In all that relates to the
affectional part of our being, none can doubt that we grow by giving.
The more we love, the more we find that is lovely; and it is only in
proportion as we love that we can learn to comprehend that God is
infinitely powerful by reason of his infinite love. If we would make our
one talent two, or our five talents ten, the best way to do it is by
giving of all that we have to those who are poorer than ourselves.

Every person has within him three planes of life, which constitute his
being, and which, during the progress of regeneration, are successively
developed; viz., the natural, the spiritual, and the heavenly. With
those who lead an externally good life on the natural plane, that
is, who act more from the impulses of a kind disposition or a blind
obedience than from the light of Christian truth, charity consists
merely in supplying the natural wants of the neighbor by making him more
comfortable in his external condition; and this is well, for there is
little, if any, use in trying to improve the inner man while the outer
is bowed down with want or squalid with impurity. This is the basis
of the higher planes of charity, the first in time, though lowest in
degree. There are those who think lightly of this form of charity,
because it is lowest in degree, forgetting that it is absolutely
essential as a basis for everything that is higher. This truth may be
illustrated by the duties of the parents of a family. It is easy to
perceive that the highest duty of parents is the spiritual training
of their children, that the second is to give them an intellectual
education, while the third and lowest is to feed and clothe and shelter
their bodies. This duty towards the body, although lowest in degree, is
first in time; and ministering to the wants of the natural bodies of
their children, that they may grow up strong and healthy, is the
first duty to be performed in order to insure, so far as possible,
a trustworthy basis on which to build up their spiritual bodies. It
should, however, be distinctly kept in mind that this is only the lowest
plane of parental duty, and that to rise no higher is, as it were, to
lay a solid foundation with labor and expense, and then leave it with no
superstructure, a monument of folly.

From this class of charitable persons come those who found institutions
and lead reforms having in view the amelioration of the physical
condition of the human race. In regarding this as the lowest class, no
disrespect towards it is intended, for it is absolutely essential as a
basis to the higher; but this foundation should be recognized as such by
the founder in order that he may adapt it to the superstructure, and
not elaborate the former at the expense of the latter. The parent may
squander his means upon fine clothes and sumptuous fare until he has
nothing left for the intellectual education of his children; the State
may build palaces for the physical comfort of its paupers and criminals,
until there is nothing left in the treasury to construct schoolhouses
and colleges for the mental training of its virtuous children; the
philanthropist may so bestow his charities that the recipient will learn
to feel that it is the duty of the rich to support the poor, and so
become a pauper when he might have been a useful citizen.

With those whose brotherly love is of the second, or spiritual, degree,
charity is founded on the love of right, the love of giving to all their
just due. Those of the first class will, perhaps, deem those of the
second cold, yet a close observation will show that in the end more good
is done to society through the efforts of the latter than of the former.
Where the generosity of the first would reform the condition of a
miserable neighborhood, by giving the sufferers food and raiment and
shelter, the justice of the second would say all men should have the
means of acquiring a support for themselves, and his efforts would be
turned to providing employment, and encouraging a spirit of industry
among the poor. Where the first would build almshouses and hospitals,
the second would build factories and workshops. The first would lavish
all that he had in direct gifts to the poor, and then have nothing
more in his power to do for them, while the second, by husbanding his
resources at first, would be able presently to place them beyond the
need of aid. The first will be so generous today that it will be hard
for him to be just tomorrow, while the second, by doing only justice
now, gains power to bring about the most generous results hereafter.

This second degree of charity or brotherly love should not ignore or
contemn the first, but build itself upon it. Justice must not forget
mercy. The poor must not be suffered to starve before work can be
provided for them, or they be taught to do it. One Christian virtue does
not destroy that which lies beneath it, but rises to its true height by
standing upon it. We do not pull away the base of a structure because we
wish its top to be more elevated.

The third, or heavenly, degree of charity results from love to the
Lord. This is the highest possible form of charity, and through its
development man is brought into connection with the highest heavens. The
first form of charity comes in great measure from a love of self. We
obey its impulses because of our own personal distress at witnessing the
distress of others; and where unrestrained by higher principle,
these impulses often compel us to be unjust today because we were
over-generous yesterday. The second form of charity results from true
brotherly love, that leads us to restrain impulse because principle puts
it in our power to do so much more for those who need our aid. The third
form is the fruit of love to the Lord. It is warmer than the first and
wiser than the second. It develops the whole power of man, both rational
and affectional, by leading him to the eternal source of all power,
whence cometh down to us all capacity to think and to love. Quickened by
love to the Lord, we shall perpetually feel that we are his stewards,
and while we are filled with gratitude towards him, as the giver of
every good thing we possess, we shall equally be filled with desire to
give even as we have received, good measure, running over, and shaken
together. Then we shall feel, that, if we would lead lives of true
charity, it must be by imitating the Lord, who showed forth his love
towards his children, first by giving them the earth and all that it
contained as an inheritance; secondly, by giving them the Word of his
divine truth to teach them the way in which they should walk; and
thirdly, by coming in person to show them the reality of a divine
life. Finitely imitating this infinite example, as we advance in the
regeneration of our Affections, we shall first give of our external
possessions from the love of giving, and from a desire to make ourselves
happy by seeing others so. Next, we shall give from the knowledge of
truth that is in us, working with such wisdom as we possess, to help
others to make themselves happy. Finally, love to God will lead us to
perceive that charity in the highest degree is the leading a good life;
and that he who is pure and holy and faithful is a living form of
charity. While this state does not destroy, but fills full the two
preceding ones it will perhaps diminish rather than increase the general
action of the life upon society, because its tendency is to increase our
earnestness in the performance of the immediate duties of life that are
included in the family circle, and in all that relates to the particular
occupation of the individual. This is the natural result of an interior
love to the Lord; for this makes us feel his immediate presence in all
the circumstances of daily life, and so causes us to look upon the duty
that lies nearest as that one which the Lord wishes us to perform first;
and till that is done, prevents our seeking out duties more remote and
less apparent.

In studying the material manifestations of the Divine Love and Wisdom,
we find that the perfection of each minutest part is a type of the
perfection of the great whole. So in the material works of man, every
whole thing approaches perfection just in the degree that its several
parts are perfect; and it is vain to labor for great results while we
overlook minute details. So in life, society can never be a virtuous
and happy whole until each individual, in his special vocation, fulfils
every duty pertaining to his station. If we would perform our quota of
the great whole, we must, each in his place, fulfil the duties that lie
around us; and we must beware how we go out of our way in pursuit of
duty, unless we are confident that we are not neglecting, or perhaps
trampling upon, a duty that lies directly in our path.

There is especial danger, at the present day, that many of us may need
to be warned like the scribe of old, wearied with his task-work, not
to seek great things for ourselves. As Baruch murmured because he must
again and again write out the words of Jeremiah, so we cry out wearily
at the daily recurring duties of life, and would fain seek some great
thing whereby to show forth our devotion to the truth. This is because
our love to the Lord is not yet strong enough to regenerate our
Affections. In proportion as this is accomplished, duty will become
lovely to us, because it is what the Lord sets before us to do. We all
know how pleasant it is to do the will of those whom we most love on
earth, and so would it be supremely delightful to us to do our duty if
we had a similar love for our Father in Heaven.

As the little coral insect, obeying the blind instinct of its nature,
adds particle to particle, and builds a house for itself at the same
time that it helps to construct a continent; so we, obeying the voice of
God, in every little duty, performed not grudgingly, but with the heart,
are adding something to our eternal mansions, and helping to enlarge the
bounds of heaven.


"Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person
of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy
neighbor."--LEVITICUS xix. 15.

"There is but one thing of which I am afraid, and that is

  "Work! and thou shalt bless the day,
  Ere thy task be done;
  They that work not, cannot pray,
  Cannot feel the sun.

  "Worlds thou mayst possess with health
  And unslumbering powers;
  Industry alone is wealth--
  What we do is ours."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thought, Imagination, and Affection, combined harmoniously, constitute
a symmetrical Character, and they should manifest themselves in an
external Life of corresponding symmetry. The external Life will always
fall short of the internal, because we can always imagine a degree of
excellence beyond that which we have reached, let our efforts be earnest
and active as they may; and the more we advance in Christian progress,
the wider will the vista open before us of that which we may yet attain.
As we ascend the heights of worldly knowledge, in whatever department,
the horizon widens at every step; and we always know that the horizon,
distant as it may seem, is only an imaginary limit to that which may be
known. The shallow student, in the inflation of self-conceit, may fancy
that his own narrow valley is the limit of the universe; but the wise
man knows that limitation belongs only to his own organization, and not
to the universe of God. So in the training of Character, we may go on in
our progress, not only through time, but through the measureless periods
of eternity, and yet we know that we can never reach that perfection of
development which belongs to the All-perfect.

Among the insane dreamers of the earth, those are found who deem
themselves enjoying light sufficient to live lives of perfection, even
in this dim morning twilight that lies around us on earth; but it is
their bat-like vision which takes for noonday that which, were their
eyes couched, would seem to them but darkness visible. He who fancies
that he leads a perfect life is but a dreamer concerning things of which
he has no true knowledge.

Perfection is, nevertheless, the object at which we should patiently and
steadfastly aim, and the loftiness of the mark, unattainable though it
be, will shed an ennobling influence on those who strive. The mass of
human beings aim at nothing higher than to be as virtuous as, or a very
little more so than, their neighbors; and are often more than contented
when they think they have reached the low mark at which they aim. To
compare ourselves with our fellow-beings is always dangerous, and leads
to envyings, rivalries, pride, and vainglory. In all our aims, the
absolute should be our only mark. If in intellectual pursuits we strive
only to know as much as our neighbors for the sake of decency, or to
know more than they for the gratification of pride, or for the pursuit
of wealth or honor, we shall never reach so high a point as if we
studied without ever stopping to compare ourselves with any one; but
worked right on, incited simply by the desire of knowing all that our
capacities and opportunities would enable us to acquire. Working thus,
we should go on our way rejoicing, our hearts embittered by no envyings,
inflated by no conceit. Comparing what we know with that which we do not
know, we could never become vain of our acquirements, for we must always
feel that what we know is but the beginning of that which remains to be

So in Life, if we compare our own lives with the lives of our neighbors,
we shall be envious and jealous, or else self-conceited and proud; and
our efforts will probably soon slacken, and then cease; and then we
shall begin to go down hill, at the very moment, perhaps, when we are
taking credit to ourselves for our rapid, or our finished, ascent. If,
on the other hand, we compare our lives with that absolute perfection
which the Lord sets before us as our model, we shall incur the danger of
none of these vices; and though the greatness of our task may well cause
us to "work in fear and trembling," we shall ever be cheered by the
consciousness that "the Lord worketh within us both to will and to do."

When our characters take form in external Life, Thought must give us
discrimination, Imagination must give us courage, and Affection must
give us earnestness; then our external nature will be the transparent
medium through which the internal nature will shine, with a lustre
undiminished by the opacity which is sure to dim its radiance when
dulness, fearfulness, or indolence inheres with the external nature;
for then it forms a husk to hide, instead of a medium to display, the
workings of the inner being.

The powers that have been treated of in the preceding essays are
sometimes found to work well so long as they work upon abstractions; but
so soon as they are required to work upon the daily Life, they fail of
reaching so high a point of excellence as we think we had reason to
anticipate. This results from the want of either discrimination,
courage, or earnestness; and the inner nature cannot be thoroughly
trained until these faculties are so developed by its life-giving power,
that their weakness ceases to interfere with its movements when it seeks
to manifest itself in external Life.

Thought can discriminate abstractions long before it can discriminate
facts in their relations with Life. It can reason logically of the true
and the false in the realms of the mind long before it can tell the
right from the wrong with correctness and readiness in the daily
ongoings of events. To discriminate justly here, we must be able to
dissipate the mists with which the love of self and the love of the
world obscure the way in which we tread; hiding that which we _ought_
to love, and displaying in enlarged proportions the things that we _do_
love, until reason loses all just data, and accepts whatever passion
offers as foundation for its judgments. Persons thus misled, often think
they really meant to walk steadfastly in the right path, and that they
are not responsible for having wandered into the wrong. They call what
they have done an error of judgment, and rest content in the belief that
their intentions were good, and therefore they are not to blame. This
may be true, for "to err is human," and none but the All-wise can be
sure of always judging rightly. Still, when we know that we have done
wrong through an error of judgment, we should carefully examine and see
if we might not have avoided this mistake had we been more careful
in our investigation of facts,--more conscientious in our process of
adopting our opinions. If we thus catechized our past errors, we should
probably find, that, in a large proportion of cases, our error sprang
from some cause we might have prevented,--from carelessness, from
blindness caused by the desire to gratify our own wishes, or from
indolence; in fact, that what we fancied sprang from an error of
judgment only, had a much deeper root, and drew its nourishment from
undisciplined Affections.

In training the faculty of discrimination, the work we must set before
ourselves is to learn the relative value of principles, of persons, and
of things; and in order to do this, we must look upon them in their
relations with time and with eternity. We must learn to value and to
judge from laws of absolute right, and not from the expediencies of the

Protestants quote with horror the Romish maxim, that, "for a just
cause, it is lawful to confirm equivocation with an oath," yet the
same principle lurks within their own bosoms, inciting many a
well-intentioned soul to "do evil that good may come of it." The two
maxims are twin sisters, and children of the father of lies. Persons who
think they have delicate consciences not unfrequently tell what they
call small lies, or lies of expediency, in order that some good may come
of it, which they esteem so great that it overbalances the evil of the
falsehood. This class of persons is very numerous, and of all degrees,
running from the mother who deludes her child into being a "good boy"
by the promise of punishment or of favor that she has no intention of
bestowing, to the juror who swears to speak the truth, and then affirms
that a guilty man is innocent, fancying that it is less a sin for him
to commit perjury than for the powers that be to commit what he calls
oppression, injustice, or legal murder. This willingness to commit one
sin, in order to prevent our neighbor from committing another, is a form
of brotherly love we are nowhere enjoined to practise; it springs
from an overweening self-love, that believes itself too pure to be
contaminated by a small sin, while it forgets that a wilful disobedience
of one commandment is in its essence disobedience towards the whole law.
All who do evil that good may come of it, in any department of life,
belong to this same class of persons. They ever look upon the sins of
their neighbors with a sharper eye than they turn upon their own;
and ever hold themselves in readiness, by "righteous indignation,"
intemperate zeal, and wisdom beyond, that which is written, to do battle
for the Lord with weapons he has forbidden us to use, and to set the
world in order by means and principles in direct opposition to his laws.

No one could be guilty of such sins who possessed a discriminating
sense of right and wrong; such a sense as is derived from receiving the
teachings of the Lord in simplicity of heart, and never presuming to set
aside his commandments in order to place our own in their stead. His
commands to refrain from doing evil are explicit, and without reserve,
and he who ventures to call in question their universal application is
sharpening a weapon for the destruction of his own soul.

The commands of the Lord are infinite principles, and in their natural
and simple deductions cover all the acts of Life having any moral
bearing, from the greatest to the least; and it is not the wisdom,
but, the foolishness, of man, not his depth, but his shallowness, that
endeavors to limit their significance and their application. We shall
find that our vain attempts to do this occasion almost all our errors of
judgment. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple,"
and he who is implicitly guided by it can alone walk surely; for he
only has an unfailing guide in his endeavors to distinguish accurately
between right and wrong.

If we learn to discriminate principles wisely, our next step is to apply
a similar action of the thoughts to persons; and here again it is to the
laws of absolute good and evil we must look for light. We must learn to
respect persons for what they are, and not for their position, their
reputation, or their worldly possessions. If we are really aiming to
train our own characters in accordance with the laws of absolute right,
we shall be likely to respect in others the attributes we seek in our
own persons. In all other efforts, there is too often envy and jealousy
among those who strive; but with those who seek true excellence, whether
intellectual or moral, _for its own sake_, and not from love of the
world, there is always pure brotherly love; and a perpetual delight is
experienced in the contemplation of excellence wherever it is found.

In our estimate of the relative value of things, the same laws are
called into action. If we would value them aright, we shall seek first
those which aid us in improving and educating our characters, or which
enlarge our powers of usefulness, and be comparatively indifferent to
things which are external, and contribute only to the pleasure of the

True discrimination may be defined as the faculty by which we justly
estimate the value and the relations of principles, of persons, and of
things; and so far as we attain to it, the power of wise Thought is
ultimated in Life.

Courage, the buoyant child of Imagination, is the next faculty which we
must duly cultivate, if we would use the talents God has bestowed upon
us to the best advantage. It is common to look upon courage as a natural
endowment, and few persons seem to be aware that it is a moral trait we
are bound to cultivate. Yet when we consider how the want of courage
interferes with our powers of usefulness, we cannot doubt that
conscience should have force to make brave men and women of us all. In
the various relations of life there is nothing that so paralyzes the
powers as fear. They who are the subjects of fear are slaves, let their
position or their endowments be what they may. The want of courage in
practical life brings failure, casualty, and even death, in its train:
intellectually, it robs us of half our power; morally, it puts us in
bondage to our fellow-beings; and religiously, it leaves us without

Hope and fear are alike children of the Imagination; but how different
is their aspect! Fear walks through the world with abject gait,
searching constantly after something of which it may be afraid; for,
like all the other faculties, it perpetually demands food, and if it
finds it not in the world around, imagines it in the world within. Few
persons, perhaps none, are fearful in every department of life; but
almost every one is so in some particular relations. Just so far as we
succumb to fear, we lose the control of our powers, and lie at the feet
of circumstance instead of cooperating with it, and making it subserve
our benefit. Hope, on the contrary, finds cause for joy everywhere, and
when surrounded by gloom sees, in imagination, the dawn that must come
even after the blackest night, and is buoyed up by the remembrance,
that, though "sorrow may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning."
Where fear sees nothing but the black clouds that threaten coming
storms, hope looks through them to the bow of promise. Hope is the
internal principle of true courage. St. Paul, in his beautiful
description of charity, tells us that it "hopeth all things"; and we may
easily perceive how it must be so, for the external form of charity
is love to the neighbor, which leads us to hope all things for our
fellow-beings; while its internal form, which is love to God, must lead
us to hope all things for ourselves. The devils believe and tremble
because they hate God; the devout believe and hope because they love

Let us consider courage specially in its four principal
relations,--physical, intellectual, moral, and religious.

Physical courage,--the courage of practical life,--though it seems the
lowest form of this virtue, is perhaps quite as rare as either of the
others. There is abundance of fool-hardiness, of brutal rashness,
indifferent to all consequences, in the World; but very little of that
calm, self-possessed courage that leaves to one the full use of his
faculties in the midst of danger, and allows him to act wisely, even
when meeting death face to face. The only sure foundation for this form
of courage is unshrinking trust in the overruling power of God,--a trust
that shall make us feel his providence ever clasping its arms about us
in all the circumstances of life, causing us ever to bear in mind, that
he who watches the fall of the sparrow cannot permit us to perish or to
suffer by chance. This trust will give us power to meet the prospect of
death with calmness, let it threaten in what form it may, whether the
summons come in the crash of the shattered car, the bowlings of the
ocean-storm, the flash of the lightning, or the quiet of our own
chamber. We shall feel that the hand of God is in, or over, them all;
and when danger threatens, our faculties will rather be quickened than
diminished by the consciousness, that, in times of emergency, if we look
to him, he will be the more abounding in pouring his grace upon us to
supply our need. Calm, self-possessed courage comes to us the moment we
lean upon God for strength; while we are rendered helpless by fear, or
rash by arrogance, if we look only to ourselves.

There are those who would feel that they were passing away by the will
of God, if disease came to them with slowly wasting hand, and would meet
his will, coming in that form, with meekness and patience; perhaps, with
willingness: and yet were they called to die by sudden casualty, would
pass into eternity, shrieking with terror. Much of this fear of sudden
death is a mere physical passion, arising from a mistaken idea that
there must be great pain in a death by violence; and some even, in spite
of the direct teaching of the Lord to the contrary, look upon such a
death as a manifestation of the wrath of God against the individual. Yet
there is, in fact, much less suffering in most deaths by casualty than
by prolonged disease; while in many such there is probably entire
freedom from suffering. The mercy of God, no less than his power, is
everywhere, and in all forms of death, no less than in life; and were
our love for him as universal as his for us, we could no more fear
while remembering that we are in his hands, than the infant fears while
clasped to its mother's breast.

The possession of this trust in God, because it makes one calm in all
positions and under all emergencies, is the surest of all safeguards
against danger. How often, in the shocking records of disaster by land
and water, is the loss of life directly traceable to the want of that
true courage that retains self-possession everywhere, and under all
circumstances, giving the power to ward off threatening danger, even
when it seems most imminent and irresistible. In pestilence, the
terrified are the first to fall victims to the scourge, while none walk
so securely as those who possess their souls in quietness.

Intellectual courage,--the courage of thought--comes second in the
ascending scale. As physical courage gives us the ability to use our
faculties with the same freedom in the most imminent danger as we should
with no alarming circumstance to excite us, making us as it were to rise
above circumstance, so intellectual courage gives us the power to think
with independence, just as we should if we did not know the opinion of
another human being upon the subject which engages our thoughts.

Persons having an humble estimate of their own abilities are apt to take
their opinions, without reserve, from those whom they most respect,
without making any effort on their own part to judge for themselves
between truth and falsehood. If this were right, it would take all
responsibility in relation to matters of thought from this class of
persons; yet every human being must be responsible for the opinions he
holds. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying we took our opinion from
another, and it is his fault if it be false. Each one must be prepared
to answer for his own opinions, just as he must be responsible for his
own actions.

Persons of a combative disposition take just the opposite course from
this, and adopt opinions merely because they are opposed to some
particular person or to some class of persons. Such persons fancy
themselves very independent, and announce their opinions with a movement
of the head, that seems to say, "You see I am afraid of nobody, and dare
to think for myself." There is, however, quite as little independence
in adopting an opinion because somebody else does not think so, as
in accepting it because he does. Independence of thought is thinking
without any undue regard to the opinion of any one else, one way or the

A third class of persons, having large love of approbation, is very
numerous. These are unwilling to express any opinion in conversation
until they have ascertained the views of the person they address; cannot
tell what they think of a book until they know what the critics say;
and seem to have no idea of truth in itself, but look merely to please
others by changing their opinions as often as they change their
companions. There are many authors of this class who, in writing,
strive only to please the vanity of the reader by presenting him with a
reflection of his own ideas; and whose constant aim is to follow public
opinion, instead of leading it. They do not care whether the ideas they
promulgate are true or false, if they are but popular; and if they fail
to please, are filled with chagrin, and sometimes have even died of

A fourth class of persons, possessed of strong self-esteem, arrive at
independence of thought through pride of intellect, and this is even
more dangerous than to depend upon others for our opinions; for of all
idolatry, there is none so interior and hard to overcome as the worship
of self. If we would arrive at truth of opinion, we must be independent
of our own passions and prejudices no less than of our neighbor's.
There is but one source of truth, and whoever believes that he finds it
elsewhere is an idolater. The Lord has declared, "I am the way and the
truth and the life"; and it is only through him as the way that we can
find the truth, and we seek it through him when we love it because he is
the truth, and so seek it for its own absolute beauty and excellence,
desiring to bring it out into life.

Look where we may along the pages of history and the records of science,
it is the devout men who have been the successful promulgaters of new
ideas and searchers after truth. The scoffer and the infidel make great
boasts of their progress through their independence of Scripture; but in
a little while a devout man follows in their footsteps and proves that
their deductions are false, and that even their observations of facts
were not to be trusted. Scoffers and infidels come, promising to set the
world in order by subverting governments; but though they are quick
to pull down, they have no power to build up; and it is only when the
devout man comes, that the reign of anarchy and misrule ceases.

Common, daily life is the epitome of history. The devout man is the only
one whose opinions are trustworthy; and just so far as we become truly
devout will the scales that hinder us from seeing the truth fall from
our eyes. "If the eye be single," looking to the Lord alone, unbiassed
in its gaze by the thousand-fold passions of earth, "the whole body
shall be full of light."

Moral courage, the third phase of this virtue, is that faculty of the
soul by which we are enabled to act, in all the social relations of
life, with perfect independence of the opinions of the world, and
governed only by the laws of abstract propriety, uprightness, and
charity. It gives us power to say and to do whatever we conscienciously
believe to be right and true, without being influenced by the fear of
man's frown or the hope of his favor. This is very difficult, because
the customs and conventionalisms of society hedge us about so closely
from our very infancy, that they constrain us when we are unconscious of
it, and lead us to act and to refrain in a way which our better judgment
would forbid, did we consult its indications without being influenced by
the world.

It was a saying of a wise man, that "he who fears God can fear nothing
else"; and there is certainly no healthy way in which we can be
delivered from that fear of the world which destroys moral courage,
but the learning to fear, above all things, failing to fulfil our duty
before God. If we would have moral courage, we must accustom ourselves
to feel that we are accountable to God, and to him only, for what we do.
There is a spurious moral as well as intellectual courage, the offspring
of pride and arrogance, that pretends to independence in a spirit of
defiance of the opinion of the world; but this will never give us the
power to act wisely, for wisdom is ever the twin sister of charity
that loves the neighbor even while differing from him in opinion. True
courage of every kind is perfectly self-possessed, but never defiant. A
spirit of defiance springs from envy or hate if it be honest, and from
a consciousness of inferiority if assumed; and is sometimes only a
disguise self-assumed by fear, when it seeks to be unconscious of
itself. True moral courage results from the hope that we are acting
in harmony with the laws of eternal wisdom. Fear of every kind is
annihilated by a living hope that the Lord is on our side.

If we would test the quality of our moral courage, we must ask
ourselves, is it defiant? is it disdainful? is it envious? does it hate
its neighbor? or are its emotions affected in any way by the opinion of
the world? If we can answer all these questions in the negative, we must
go a step farther, and ask if we have gained a state of independence of
our own selfish passions, as well as of the world; for our most
inveterate foes, and those before whom we cower most abjectly, are often
those that dwell within the household of our own hearts. If the love of
ease or of sensual indulgence rules there, we need to summon our moral
courage to a stern strife, for there is no conquest more difficult than
over the evil affections that are rooted in our sensual nature. Wise
and good men have gone so far as to believe that this conquest is never
entire in this world; that the allurements of indolence and the gnawing
of sensual cravings are never quieted save when the body perishes. It
is, however, difficult to believe that passions exist in the body apart
from the soul, and if not, there can be no absolute impossibility of
conquest, even in this world. If this may be attained, it must be
through the building up of a true moral courage, that shall fight
believing that the sword of the Lord is in the hand of him who strives,
trusting in that eternal strength which is mighty even as we are weak.

Religious courage develops naturally in proportion as the growth of
moral courage becomes complete. Fear is nowhere so distressing as in our
relations with our Creator. That which is by nature best becomes worst
when it is perverted; and as the blessed hope to which, as children of
God, we are all born heirs, is in its fulness an infinite source of joy
and blessing to the soul, so when it is reversed and perverted into
fear, it becomes the source of unspeakable misery, sometimes resulting
in one of the most wretched forms of insanity.

The morbid state of the mind which induces this distressing passion is
the result of a peculiar form of egotism, which leads the thoughts
to fasten upon one's own evils so entirely that the mind ceases to
recognize, or even to remember, the long-suffering patience and mercy of
the Heavenly Father. A more common, but less painful form of this fear
is the result of vagueness in one's ideas of the Divine character and
attributes. The clear and rational views which Swedenborg has given of
the Divine Providence is undoubtedly the reason why religious melancholy
is almost never found among the members of the New Church. The peace in
believing, which is almost universal among this class of Christians,
is a subject of remark among those who observe them, wherever they are
found; and this arises, not merely from their not looking upon God as an
enemy and avenger who demands a perfect fulfilment of the letter of the
law, or infinite punishment for sin, either personally or by an atoning
Saviour; but from the possession of a distinct idea, imaged in their
minds, of the nature and the quality of the Divine Providence. Where
there is a tendency to any kind of fear, nothing increases it more than
the want of a distinct idea of the thing or person feared; because the
Imagination, which is always quick with the timid, is almost sure to
create something within the mind far more fearful than anything that
really exists. The greatest boon mankind ever received through a brother
man was the doctrine first promulgated by Swedenborg, that God has
respect even to our good intentions; and that he casts out none who
sincerely desire to be of his kingdom. If one distinctly believes this
doctrine, there is no rational ground in the mind for fear; because the
very fact of our desire for salvation--provided we understand salvation
to be a state of the mind, and not a mere position in a certain
place,--or something pertaining to our internal, and not to our
external, nature--makes it impossible that we should fail of attaining

If one is oppressed with religious fear, the way to escape from it is
to use every endeavor to attain a clear and distinct idea of the Divine
character, and to strive to bring one's self into harmony with it;--to
think as little as possible about one's own sins, and to train the
thoughts to dwell upon the Divine perfections, and cultivate an ardent
desire to imitate them. It is necessary to think of one's self enough
to refrain from the commission of external sins, and just so far and so
fast as we put away sin, the Lord will implant the opposite virtue in
its place, provided we put the sin away from love to him, and not from
any selfish or worldly motive. This state of active cooperation with the
Lord is something very different from that into which one falls who is
the subject of religious fear, and cannot exist in company with it. The
religious coward can only overcome his fear by remembering that God is
not a tyrant who demands impossibilities of his slaves, but a Father of
infinite love, who would make his children eternally happy; and who, in
order that they may become so, gives them every means and every aid that
they will receive. He must not suffer his heart to sink within him by
thinking of his own weakness, but must elevate it by thinking of the
infinite power of him who has called us to salvation. Above all things,
he must not fall into reveries about himself, but seek to forget self in
the active performance of duty.

The performance of duty, the fulfiling of use, which, rightly
understood, is the universal panacea against all the troubles and
sorrows of this life, is too often a fearful bugbear in the eyes of
those who understand it not. This subject, however, brings us to the
third and last topic to be discussed under the head of Life. The love of
duty, to be effectual or real, must be earnest; for earnestness is the
certain result of living Affection. Through this, all our other powers
and faculties ultimate themselves in external Life. Earnestness is the
exact opposite of indolence. It is the external motive power, just as
Affection is the internal motive power,--the body, of which Affection is
the soul. Without earnestness, all our other powers come to naught, and
we live in vain; with it, our other endowments become alive, and ready
to impress themselves upon the external world. Indolence is a rust,
corroding and dulling all our faculties; earnestness, a vitalizing
force, quickening and brightening them. By earnestness, alone, can we
climb upward in that progress which, begun in time, pauses not at the
grave, but passing through the portal of death, goes eternally on in the
same direction which we chose for ourselves here, ever approaching more
nearly to the Divine perfection, whose life is the unresting activity of
infinite love. By indolence, we sink ever lower and lower, and through
a continuous process of deterioration, grow each day more unfit for the
heavenly life, which all but the abandoned, and perhaps even they, fancy
they desire, even when refusing to use any of the means whereby it may
be gained.

In the circle of man's evil propensities, no one, perhaps, is a more
fruitful mother of wretchedness and crime than the propensity to
indolence. It is a common saying, that the love of money is the root
of all evil; but that root often runs deeper, and finds its life in
indolence, which incites those under its dominion to seek money through
unlawful means. The desire for money impels most men to constant effort,
and there is no reason for attributing a stronger desire to him who
steals or defrauds than to him who labors steadfastly, every day of his
life, from early dawn to eve; yet we praise the latter, and condemn the
former. It is not, then, the love of money that we condemn, but the
desire to attain it by vicious means; and such desire results from a
hatred for labor, which is the only legitimate means by which it may be
gained. Money in itself is but dead matter, serving only as a minister
to some end beyond; and the simple desire for it is neither good nor
bad: the end for which it is desired elevates the desire itself to a
virtue, or degrades it to a vice; and the means which we adopt for
obtaining it, and the purposes to which we apply it, make it either a
blessing or a curse.

Every possession, whether moral, intellectual, or physical, is the
legitimate reward of labor wisely and earnestly applied; and for these
rewards the virtuous are content to labor without repining, and to them,
not only the rewards, but the labor itself, is blessed. The vicious,
on the contrary, desire the rewards, but hate the labor by which they
should be gained. They, therefore, accordingly as they belong to
different classes of society, simulate virtues which they do not
possess, pretend to acquirements they have been too idle to gain, or
strive after wealth by any means, rather than patient industry and
honest effort.

It is not the vicious alone who fail to perceive that labor is a
blessing from which a wise man can never fly. The curse applied to Adam,
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," has led many to suppose
that originally the wants of the human race were supplied without any
exertion of its own,--that in the garden of Eden there was enjoyment
without effort, possession without labor. Even in the pulpit, labor is
sometimes spoken of as a curse pertaining only to life in this world,
from which we shall be delivered in the life to come. Nothing can be
farther from the truth. Employment is the life of every soul, from
the Most High down to the least of his children. They only who are
spiritually dead, or sleeping, ask for idleness. It is man fallen who
looks on labor as a curse, not man walking with God in the garden of
Eden; and to man, when he has fallen, labor is indeed a curse, for his
soul is so perverted that he knows not the true nature and qualities of
a blessing.

Man, resting in thought or feeling, is at best a useless abstraction; he
becomes truly a man only when his thoughts and feelings come forth into
life, and impress themselves on outward things. If he fail to do this,
the rust of idleness eats into all his powers, till he becomes a useless
cumberer of the ground; the world loses, and heaven gains nothing when
this mortal puts on immortality. Such a being is dead while he lives--a
moral paralytic. His capacities are as seed cast upon a rock where there
is no earth.

God works incessantly. His eye knows no closing, his hand no weariness.
The universe was not only built by his power, but is sustained every
moment by his inflowing life. If he were to turn from it for a single
instant, all things would return to chaos. Man, created in the image and
likeness of God, resembles him most nearly when the life influent from
God which fills his soul, flows forth freely as it is given, quickening
with its powers all that comes within the influence of his sphere.

There is an old proverb that tells us, "Idleness is the devil's pillow";
and well may it be so esteemed, for no head ever rested long upon it,
but the lips of the evil spirit were at its ear, breathing falsehood and
temptation. The industrious man is seldom found guilty of a crime; for
he has no time to listen to the enticings of the wicked one, and he is
content with the enjoyments honest effort affords. It is the vicious
idler, vexed to see the fortunes of his industrious neighbor growing
while he is lounging and murmuring, who robs and murders that he may get
unlawful gain. It is the merry, thoughtless idler who, to relieve the
nothingness of his days, seeks the excitement of the wine-cup and the
gaming-table. It is the sensual idler, whose licentious ear is open to
the voice of the tempter as often as his track crosses the pathway of
youth and innocence.

Not only by reason of the external, palpable rewards which labor brings
is it to be considered a blessing; but every hour of patient labor,
whether with the hands, or in study, or thought, brings with it its own
priceless reward, in its direct effects upon the Character. By it the
faculties are developed, the powers strengthened, and the whole being
brought into a state of order; provided we do all things for the glory
of God. "But," exclaims the impatient heart, wearied with the cares of
daily life, "how can all this labor for the preservation and comfort of
the merely mortal body, this study of things which belong merely to the
material world, subserve in any way the glory of God?" It is by these
very toils, worthless and transitory as they may seem, that the
Character is built up for eternity; and so to build up Character is the
whole end for which the things of time were created. No matter how small
the duty intrusted to our performance, by performing it to the best
of our abilities we are fitting ourselves to be rulers over many
things,--to hear the blessed proclamation, "Well done, good and faithful
servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

We are prone, at times, to feel as though we were not placed in the
right niche; and that, if we were differently situated, and occupied
with employments more worthy our capacities, we should work with
pleasure and assiduity; but our present duties are so much beneath us,
it seems degrading to spend our time and thoughts upon them. Here is
a radical error of judgment, for it is not a high or low duty that
degrades or elevates man, but the performing any duty well or ill. It
is as true as it is trite, that the honor or shame lies in the mode of
performance, not in the quality of the duty. We all, perhaps, know and
say, and yet need to be reminded, that a bad president stands lower in
the scale of being than a good town officer; a wicked statesman, let
him occupy what social position he may, fills a lower place than a
conscientious slave who faithfully fulfils the duties of his station.

The first Church, represented by Adam, fell because it ceased to look to
the Lord as the source of all life and light, and looked only to itself
for all things. It thus lost all conception of the legitimate aim of
life. Seeking only the enjoyment of the present moment, labor seemed a
dire calamity; for the eternal end of labor, that is, the development
of the powers of the soul, so as best to fit it for the performance of
heavenly uses, passed out of the knowledge of man, and he learned to
look forward to heaven as a place of idle enjoyment; toiling sorrowfully
through this world, in the sweat of his face, for bread that, when
attained, gave him no true life. To eat bread in the sweat of the face
signifies by correspondences, to receive and appropriate as good only
that which self may call self-produced and self-owned; and to turn away
with aversion from that which is heavenly. This is precisely what we all
do when we shrink from, or despise, any labor which duty demands at our
hands. The Lord places us in that position in life which is best adapted
to overcome the evil dispositions of our nature, and to cultivate our
souls for heaven. Perhaps we have capacities that would enable us
to perform duties that would be considered by the world of a higher
character; but perhaps, on the other hand, we have vices that the Lord
is striving to overcome by placing us in this very position which so
frets and disgusts us. If we will but remember that the mercy and love
of the Lord strive to bless us by fitting us for heaven, and not by
making us eminent in the eyes of men, we shall probably find it much
easier to comprehend why we are placed as we are in this world. When we
torment ourselves by thinking of the inappropriateness of our position
in this world, we are always viewing our position with regard to this
world only, and therefore all things are dark to us. When we look humbly
to the Lord, and seek to find out the eternal ends of his providence in
the circumstances of our lives, gradually the scales pass from our
eyes, and at last we go in peace, seeing.

Beside the education of our powers and faculties, employment is a
blessing in helping us to bear the severest trials of this life. When
bereavement or disappointment overwhelms the soul with anguish, so that
this world seems only the dark habitation of despair; when we cannot see
the bow of promise in the black cloud that darkens our horizon; when we
feel that we are without God in the world,--and there are few if any
human beings who have not found themselves at some time in such a
state,--then, as we hope by the grace of God ever to escape from this
despair, we should fly idleness as we would fly the dagger or the
poisoned cup; and though grief be tugging at the heart-strings, though
our eyes are blinded with tears, we should set ourselves diligently
about doing something that may help to make others happy, and let no
duty go unperformed; and it will not be long ere the dimmed eyes shall
begin to see the glow of the sunshine above, and the earth radiant with
beauty below; while, so far from being deserted of God, we shall feel
that sorrow has brought us more distinctly than ever before into his

  "The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
  Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown."

What are the employments of heaven we cannot know with any
particularity. Swedenborg tells us that the angels are constantly
performing uses; but what these uses are we are not distinctly told. We
know that they correspond in some way to the employments of earth; but
really to understand them probably transcends our capacities while we
remain in the flesh. The conscientious performance of the material and
finite uses of this life is the only means by which we can prepare
ourselves for the spiritual and eternal uses pertaining to the heavenly
kingdom; uses which probably serve to comfort, nourish, and strengthen
the soul in eternity, as on earth the corresponding uses serve the wants
of the body.

In the spiritual world the spiritual body is fed, clothed, and sheltered
in much the same way, to appearance, as is the material body in the
natural world; but all the surroundings of the spirit correspond to the
state of each individual being, and are the direct gift of the Lord. All
the arts and trades of this life do not exist in the other, but as these
arts and trades, as well as everything else in this world, exist only
through their correspondence with something in the other world, it
follows that all the occupations of this life have not similar, but
corresponding, occupations in the other. The end of life in this world
is to fit the soul for entering upon the heavenly life, and the end
of life in heaven is perpetual advancement in spiritual graces and
perfections; for no angel, even in the highest heavens, has reached
a degree of perfection so high that he can go no further. The end of
heavenly life thus being infinite, the effort and employment of that
life must be ceaseless. In speaking of ceaseless effort, it must not be
understood that this resembles at all the wearying labor of a slave, or
that there is anything oppressive or forced about its performance; for
this could only be anticipated with dread. Heavenly employment must be
full of life and joy, bearing us upward like the wings of a skylark, as
he bathes in the sunlight of the upper ether, and carols forth his
joy. There will undoubtedly be a variety, too, in heavenly employment,
corresponding with our varying states, and making tedium impossible.
This may be illustrated by imagining what would be a perfect mode of
spending a day in this world. We wake in the morning refreshed by
repose, and as we look forth at the sun our spirits rejoice in the
beauty of the wakening day, and rise toward the heavenly throne in
prayer and praise. We set about the performance of our daily duties, and
Christian charity toward those for whose happiness or benefit, whether
physical or intellectual, we exert our powers, makes us faithful in
whatever we do, that it may be done to the best of our ability; and our
effort is lightened by the consciousness of duty done from pure and
upright motives. If we go forth for refreshment, communion with nature
and the God of nature fills our souls with peace, while the fresh air
gives new life to the frame. When the duties of the day are over, and
the family circle collects around the evening lamp, reading or
conversation awakes the powers of the heart and the intellect, and draws
more closely the bonds of the domestic affections. We retire for the
night, and ere composing ourselves to sleep, we collect our thoughts,
reflect upon the events of the day, examining what we have done well or
ill, and prepare by wise resolutions for future effort. We slumber, and
the repose of all our powers renews our strength for the coming morrow.
Through the whole of this twenty-four hours, employment has been
constant. There has been labor of the hands, labor of the head,
conversation, thought, prayer, sleep. Every part of the being has been
called into exercise; there has been no weariness from labor, and no
idleness; but every moment of this whole day has added its quota towards
promoting the growth of the whole being; and this is a heavenly day. The
more perfectly we can make the occupations of our days thus combine for
the growth of our being, the better we are preparing ourselves for the
days of heaven.

As the progress of the heavenly life will be infinite, the wants of our
spiritual natures must likewise be infinite. The heavenly life must be
a life of charity,--a life in which every soul will strive to aid every
other to the utmost; and the charities of heaven must strengthen and
comfort the soul in a manner corresponding to the aid material charities
effect in this world. Let it constantly be borne in mind, that charities
are duties well performed, of whatever kind they may be,--as well
the faithful fulfilment of an avocation as the aiding of a suffering
fellow-being. Charity is but another name for duty; or rather duty
becomes charity when we perform it from genuine love to the Lord and
to the neighbor; and whoever leads a life of charity in this world is
fitting himself to perform the higher charities that will be required of
him in heaven.

The true end and highest reward of labor is spiritual growth; and such
growth brings with it the most exalted happiness we are capable of
attaining. This happiness is the kingdom of heaven within us; and it is
the certain and unfailing reward, or rather consequence, of a life of
true charity. It is not difficult, by intellectual thought, to perceive
the truth of this doctrine; but this is not enough. We must elevate our
hearts into a wisdom that shall make us not only perceive, but feel and
love this truth. Until we can do this, we do not truly believe, though
we may think we do. If we fret and murmur; if we are impatient and
unfaithful; if, when we plainly see that our duty lies in one path, we
yet long to follow another; if we know that we cannot leave our present
position without dereliction from right, and yet hate or despise the
place in which we are; if we repine because God does not give us the
earthly rewards we fancy we deserve, though we well know he promises
only heavenly ones; if we do habitually any or all of these things, we
may know that our faith is of the lip, and not of the heart,--that
the life of charity is not yet begun within us. Such repinings, such
cravings as these do not belong nor lead to the heavenly kingdom.

He who thinks wisely can never live a life of idleness, and where there
is excessive indolence of the body there is never healthy action of the
mind. A life of use is a life of holiness; and a life of idleness is a
life of sin. He who performs no social use, who makes no human being
happier or better, is leading a life of utter selfishness; is walking in
a way that ends in spiritual death. In the parable of the sheep and the
goats, the King condemns those on the left hand, not because they have
done that which was wrong, but because they have omitted doing that
which was right.

No human being in possession of his mental faculties is so incompetent
that he can do nothing for the benefit of those around him. One
prostrate on a bed of sickness might seem, at first glance, incapable
of performing any use; and yet, not unfrequently, what high and holy
lessons of patient faith, of unwavering piety, are taught by such a
being,--lessons that can never die out from the memory of those who
minister at the couch of suffering. When the body lies powerless, and
the hand has lost its cunning, when even the tongue is palsied in death,
how often has the eye, still faithful to the heavenly Master, by a
glance of holy peace performed the last act of charity to the bereaved
ones whom it looks upon with the eye of flesh for the last time. So long
as life remains to us our duties are unfinished: God yet desires our
service on earth, and while he desires let us not doubt our capacity
to serve. Even for one in the solitude of a prison-cell, when acts of
charity become impossible, the duty of labor is not taken away. One may
still work for the Father in Heaven, though sitting in darkness, and
with manacled limbs. To possess the soul in patience, to be meek,
forgiving, and pious, are duties amply sufficient to tax the powers of
the strongest. There is no room for idleness even here.

To work is not only a duty, but a necessity of our nature, and when we
fancy ourselves idle, we are in fact working for one whose wages is
death. The question is never, Shall we work? but, For whom shall we
work? Whom shall we choose for our master? and our happiness here and
hereafter must depend on the answer we give to this question. We may
not deliberately put and deliberately reply to this question in stated
words; but our whole lives answer it in one long-continued period.
Those who labor steadfastly, with no end in view but the acquisition of
worldly, perishable advantages, answer it fearfully; but theirs is not
a more desperate reply than comes from the idler and the slothful.
Wherever there is activity and force there is hope; for though now
flowing in a wrong direction, the stream may yet be diverted into
channels that shall lead to eternal life. Where there is no activity,
where all the faculties of the soul are sunk in the lethargy of
indifference, as well may one hope to find living fountains gushing
forth into fertilizing streams amid the sands of the African desert. The
man of science tells us that living springs exist beneath these sands,
and that artesian wells might bring them to the surface; and so in the
inmost nature of man, however degraded he may be, Swedenborg tells
us there is a shrine that cannot be defiled, through which heavenly
influences may come down into his life, and yet save him, if he will
receive them ere he passes from this world; but when sloth has become
habitual and confirmed, there is almost as little room for hope that
this will ever take place as that artesian tubes will ever make the
Saharan desert a region of fertility.

The kingdom of evil is readily attained. We have but to follow the
allurements of the passions, and we shall surely find it; we have but to
fold our hands, and it will come to us. With the kingdom of eternal life
it is not so. That is a prize not easily won. Faithful, untiring effort,
looking ever toward eternal ends; a constant scrutiny of motives, that
they may be pure and true; an earnest, heartfelt, determined devotion
to the heavenly Master, to whose service we have bound ourselves by
deliberate choice, can alone make sure for us what we seek. For a long
time this may require labor almost painful, but if we persevere, our
affections will gradually become at one with our faith, the heavenly
life will become habitual, so as to be almost instinctive; and when the
celestial kingdom is thus established within us, no place will be left
for weariness, or doubt, or pain, or fear. CONVERSATION.

"He who sedulously attends, pointedly asks, calmly speaks, coolly
answers, and ceases when he has no more to say, is in possession of some
of the best requisites of man."--LAVATER.

"The common fluency of speech, in many men, and most women, is owing to
a scarcity of matter and a scarcity of words; for whoever is master of
a language, and has a mind full of ideas, will be apt, in speaking, to
hesitate upon the choice of both; whereas, common speakers have only
one set of ideas, and one set of words to clothe them in; and these are
always ready at the mouth; so people can come faster out of a church
when it is almost empty, than when a crowd is at the door."--SWIFT.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of all the physical powers possessed by man, there is none so noble as
that of speech; none that distinguishes him so entirely from the brute;
yet how few there are who seem in any adequate degree to comprehend its
power and value, or who ever pause to reflect upon the sacrilegious
abuse to which it is often degraded.

Language is Thought and Affection in form, as works are Thought and
Affection in life. By language we receive the word of Divine Revelation,
and by language we approach the Divine Author of all things in prayer.
By language we are made happy in social life, through interchange of
thought and feeling with our fellow-beings. By language, man is made
lord of the terrestrial world. By language, the wisdom of past ages
becomes an inheritance for the whole earth, instead of perishing with
each possessor; and thus man advances from age to age, through the
experience of the past, instead of being obliged to work out all the
wisdom he gains by his own individual effort.

This is the bright and beautiful side of language; but on the other hand
is a dark and hideous side, when language becomes the foul and poisonous
medium through which the folly, the vice, and all the moral deformities
of humanity, are spread abroad through the world, and handed down
through the ages. The same medium that serves as a vehicle for heavenly
truth is the tool of the scoffing infidel; it is formed into prayer by
the saint, and into blasphemy by the sinner. Alternately, it serves the
purest and holiest uses, or the vilest and most atrocious abuses; now
formed to the sweet breathings of heavenly charity, and anon to the
harsh utterances of malignant hate.

These distinctions are wide and clear, and easily perceived by the most
obtuse or indifferent observer; but these distinctly marked varieties
pass into milder shades as they are exhibited in common Conversation,
and then a nicer observation is needful to detect the varieties of
hue that color language when used in the every-day forms of society.

The habitual use we make of language is the result of our own
characters, and it reacts upon them. It likewise acts upon those who are
about us with an unceasing power, repelling or attracting all whom we
approach. Every human being exerts a perpetual influence on every other
human being, with an activity as universal as that of gravity in the
material world; and language is one of the most efficient means of this
influence. Viewed in the light of these truths, common Conversation
becomes an object of serious consideration; and the mode of sustaining
it worthy of the deepest thought and of the most careful watchfulness.

Between the malignity of a fiend and the charity of an angel there is
a long interval of inclined plane, and those who walk there may seem a
company so mixed that they cannot be separated into two distinct bands;
but every individual of the throng is looking toward one or the
other extremity, and either ascending or descending in his course.
Conversation is the outbirth of our thoughts and affections, and it
shows their quality in the most direct manner possible. Actions are said
to speak louder than words, and to the appreciation of our fellow-beings
our lives are much truer and fuller expositions of our internal
natures than our Conversation; but before God, always, and before our
own consciences if we really look at ourselves, the insincere words that
deceive our fellow-beings stand unmasked,--the deformed exponents of the
falsehood of the soul. We can therefore understand the character of our
neighbor better by his actions than by his words; but to understand our
neighbor is of little importance compared with understanding ourselves;
and is chiefly useful because a comparison of individuals aids us in
comprehending our own natures. We can understand ourselves by our own
words if we will take the trouble to consider them dispassionately, and
analyze the thoughts and affections whence they spring.

So little honesty is believed to exist in ordinary Conversation, that
the saying of a witty courtier, that "language is the instrument whereby
man conceals his thoughts," has almost passed into a proverb. The
question, in which direction is the man walking who wraps duplicity
about himself as his constant garment, needs no answer; for all must
know that the Divine Being, whose form is truth, hateth a lie.

The first element in Conversation should be sincerity. Not the blunt
and harsh sincerity sometimes met with, which is made the cloak of
self-esteem and bitterness; for that is an evil of the same nature as
the malice and hatred that show themselves in active, outward injury
towards the neighbor. When excited by pride or anger, the tongue needs a
bridle no less than the hand; and when the heart can utter itself truly
only in the forms of such passions, silence is its only safeguard. In
speaking of the follies or vices of others, sincerity should be tempered
by a Christian charity, which, while it does not gloss over vice, does
not dwell upon it needlessly, nor take a malicious pleasure in spreading
it abroad, nor indulge self-complacency by dilating upon it, to give the
idea that one is superior to such things.

If such motives are allowed to have sway, a person soon becomes
confirmed in the habit of gossiping,--a habit that degrades alike the
intellect and the heart. The soul of gossip is a contemptible vanity
that imagines itself, or at least would have others imagine it, superior
to all that it finds of evil and absurdity in the characters of those
whom it passes in review. A very little observation will serve to show
any one that everybody sees his neighbors' faults, while very few open
their eyes upon their own; and that not unfrequently a person condemns
with the utmost vehemence in others precisely the same follies and vices
in which he himself habitually indulges. Those who study their own
characters with most care, and who best understand themselves, are apt
to say least of the characters of their neighbors; they find too much
to do within themselves, in curing their own defects, to have time or
inclination to sit in judgment upon the defects of others.

It is impossible to indulge habitually in this vice without weakening
the powers of the intellect. The heart never suffers alone from the
indulgence of any wrong passion. The intellect and the affections ever
sink as well as rise together. Where the love of gossip becomes a
confirmed habit, the mind loses its power of accurately appreciating the
value of Character,--of distinguishing truly between the good and the
bad. The power of discrimination is weakened and impaired, so that no
confidence can be placed in the opinions of the mind in relation to
Character or Life. In addition to this, we must bear in mind that
all the mental power we bestow in criticizing and ridiculing our
fellow-beings is just so much taken from our mental strength, which we
might have applied to some useful intellectual exercise. The strength
of the mind is no more indefinite than that of the body. We have but a
certain limited amount; and all that we apply to idle or bad purposes is
just so much abstracted from the good and the useful.

Sarcasm is a weapon we are almost sure to find constantly used by the
gossip; and whether it be shown in the coarse ridicule of the vulgar, or
the keen satire of the refined, it springs ever from the same source,
and is directed to the same end; as surely as the clumsy war-club of
savage lands was invented from the same impulse and wrought with the
same intent as the graceful blade of Damascus. Its source is vanity, its
end to make self seem great by making others seem little. It is a weapon
that, however skilfully wielded, always cuts both ways, wounding far
more deeply the hand that grasps it than the victim it strikes. Of all
the powers of wit, sarcasm is the lowest. There is nothing easier than
ridicule; nothing requiring a weaker head, or a colder heart.

The sincere lover of truth will never be found habitually indulging
either in gossip or sarcasm; for those who are addicted to these vices
never tell a story simply as they heard it, never relate a fact simply
as it happened. A little is added here or left out there to give the
story a more entertaining turn or the satire a keener point. As the
habit grows stronger, invention becomes more ready and copious, till at
length truth is covered up and lost under an accumulation of fiction.

There is a very common form of insincerity used by a class of
well-meaning but injudicious persons, who, rather than wound the
feelings of their friends, conceal the truth from them, sometimes by
prevarication and sometimes by positive falsehood; doing wrong, that, as
they imagine, good may come of it; as though an evil tree could by
any possibility bear good fruit.

Another class of persons converse as though the chief sin of
Conversation were the wounding the self-love of those to whom they
speak, by expressing any difference of opinion from them. Thus they
are continually temporizing, and often contradicting themselves, and
exhibiting a cowardly meanness of spirit, which is one of the most
contemptible of all the varied forms of duplicity.

There is a common form of embarrassment resulting in a hesitation of
speech, which often springs from a want of genuine sincerity. The
speaker is fancying what others will think of his remarks, instead of
fixing his mind entirely on the subject of discourse. In this divided
state, his mind loses half its power, and he utters himself in a manner
satisfactory neither to himself nor to his hearers. No doubt hesitation
in speech sometimes arises from want of verbal skill; but probably a
very large proportion of persons suffering from this difficulty would
soon cure themselves if they would steadfastly speak what they believe
to be truth, just as it rises in their minds, and without stopping to
think what will be thought of their opinions or words by those who
listen to them.

Next after truth, reverence is perhaps most important if we would order
our Conversation aright. Many indulge in a frivolous mode of speech in
speaking of the most sacred subjects; which, though it may spring from
nothing worse than thoughtlessness, cannot fail to exert a baneful
influence on the Character, and diminish, perhaps destroy, the little
respect for things holy still cleaving to the heart. This same
irreverence shows itself in another form, in speaking of the calamities
suffered by others, turning that into a jest which is to those under
discussion cause of the most bitter anguish; and though the speakers
probably would not for any consideration have their words come to the
ears of those spoken of, they still do not hesitate to make food for
mirth out of death or sin, poverty or misfortune, in a way little short
of inhuman. The indulgence of this habit falls back upon the soul of
the perpetrator, wounding deeply, if it does not kill, all the finer
sensibilities of the nature; drying up the fountains of sympathy, and
making the heart hard and callous.

Akin to reverence, and probably springing from it, is purity; which
shows itself by a careful avoidance of everything profane, obscene,
coarse, or in any way offending delicacy, either in word, tone, or
suggestion. This purity cannot be too much insisted upon; for its
opposite poisons the fountains of the heart, defiling the temple which
should be a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit. Delicacy and refinement
are too often looked upon merely as the elegant ornaments of polished
life. They should, on the contrary, be esteemed essentials in the
Christian Character; Everything leaning towards profanity, obscenity, or
indelicacy is utterly incompatible with Christian purity of heart. Low
attempts at wit, that hinge on vulgarity, are a common form of this
vice; and those who indulge their propensities in this direction, are
laying the foundation for general grossness of Character, such as they
would now, perhaps, shrink from with horror; but towards which they are
none the less surely tending.

We are told, that "for every idle word we speak we shall give an account
at the day of judgment; for by our words we shall be justified, and by
our words we shall be condemned." This has seemed to many a very hard
saying, and while some persons try to explain it away, others turn
from it as too hard either to explain or to receive. When, however,
we reflect on what words really are, we perceive that this heavy
accountability clings to them of necessity, as effect to cause. Man was
created the image and likeness of God, and when we find points hard of
comprehension in the character or relations of man, we may often gain
much light by taking a corresponding view, so far as our finite powers
permit, of the Divine Being.

The Scriptures are the Divine Word; that is, the verbal exponent of the
Divine Mind; while the world around us is the material exponent of the
same Mind. Speech and life in humanity correspond to these two modes of
expression of the Divinity. When imperfectly understood, they almost of
necessity seem to contradict each other; but it is only then. The unity
of the Word and Works of God is becoming constantly more apparent as man
advances in the knowledge of both. Each helps to explain the other, and
it is only by a knowledge of both that the character and attributes of
God can be justly comprehended. A little consideration will show that
the speech and life of man in like manner combine to exhibit the
character and qualities of the soul within,--that they harmonize with
each other, and that therefore of necessity by our words no less than by
our works we must be justified or condemned before the All-seeing One.

Many suppose, that because we, in our short-sighted views, are so often
misled by the words of our fellow-beings, they are not true pictures
of Character. We should, however, remember that it is not before
short-sighted man that we are to be judged by our words, but before the
omniscient God. To his ear our words have a very different significance
from that which they bear to our fellow-beings. We should recollect,
that the falsehood which may make it impossible for us to judge
righteous judgment of our fellow-beings stands before the Lord only
as a falsehood; and that, in whatever form it comes, from the courteous
white lie--as man dares to call it--of polished society, to the
double-dyed blackness of malignant hypocrisy, God sees only the
varying shades of dissimulation; springing, in whatever form, from a
deep-running undercurrent of selfishness and worldliness. We may be
deceived into believing words are genuine when they are not so; but
every disingenuous word uttered is, before God, the image and likeness
of the duplicity that reigns within. To us they may seem the beautiful
garments that envelop purity and truth; but to him they are the foul and
flimsy veils that strive to conceal the soul's deformity.

Man, in the pride of his artifice, often exults because he has outwitted
his neighbor by his lying words, while all the time he has far more
outwitted himself. He has degraded his own soul,--set upon it a foul
mark that can be washed out only by the bitter tears of penitence, and
yet holds his head aloft in fancied superiority over his fellows, while
before God and the angels he stands like Cain, with the mark of sin
impressed upon his forehead.

That man should be condemned for lying words all will admit, but when
men converse idly, or without any particular thought one way or the
other as to what they are saying, they are apt to suppose that no
especial moral character belongs to the words they utter. Such, however,
is far from the truth. Man is never so sincere as in his idle moments.
His words are then the simple outporings of his affections. It has been
often said, that one can always measure the refinement of any person by
watching his language and deportment in his moments of sportiveness. It
is quite as easy to judge of other traits of Character when the mind is
thrown off its guard at such moments. Idle words, more apparently than
any other, are genuine manifestations of Character. It is in them that
the heart, out of its abundance, speaketh. The Conversation of a true
Christian is characterized in his hours of gayety, no less than at
other times, by truth tempered with love, made clear and steadfast by
simplicity, and clothed with reverence and purity.

The trait of Conversation we would next consider is courtesy,--Christian
courtesy. This is nothing more nor less than carrying out the law of
charity; the doing as we would be done by. It is to recognize the fact
that others have a right to talk as well as ourselves; and also a right
to expect us to listen to what they say as attentively and respectfully
as we would wish them to listen to us. We should not merely hold our
tongues when others speak, but should scrupulously attend to what they
say. A person who affects politeness, although he remains silent while
another speaks, yet does so with an air that plainly shows he is paying
no attention to what is said, and is waiting with impatience for the
moment when he can hear himself talk. This sort of listening is a mere
pretence put on by the conceited and overbearing when they wish to pass
for persons of polite manners; but in reality it is an insult rather
than a courtesy to listen in this way. To listen with true courtesy, one
should feel and show, not only a willingness, but a desire to know what
another has to say, should follow attentively all that he says, and
should then reply with due consideration for what has been said.

It is a remark often made, that after an argument between two or more
persons, each individual is more strongly fixed in his previous opinion
than he was before. This result is often consequent upon the want of
true courtesy. The parties to an argument, absorbed in admiration of
their own opinions, seek not to become wiser through discourse, which
should be the end sought in all Conversation of an argumentative or
discussive character, but seek only to draw attention to their own views
and opinions; until that which should be Conversation degenerates into a
mere war of words, in which each party strives to talk down, rather than
to convince, the other. In such wordy warfare charity has no part; but
pride and combativeness hold entire dominion over the soul. He who comes
off conqueror may exult in his own power; but he has overcome, not
because reason was on his side, but because his combativeness was
stronger than that of his opponent; and he exults in that which is
in reality his shame. The moral and the intellectual natures suffer
together in such contests. The mind fastens itself upon the prejudices
and opinions it has chanced to adopt, loving them merely because they
are its own, and seeks no longer to advance in the acquisition of
truth; while the heart, inflated with egotism, has no abiding-place for
charity. Let charity rule in a discussion, and how different is the
result. Each party then strives to aid the other in discovering the
truth, and at the close of the Conversation each has made some advance
in the knowledge of truth. The ideas of both have become more clear and
rational, and their minds have acted with far more power, because they
have been given exclusively to the object under consideration instead
of being divided between the object and self-love. In the one case, the
parties are like two horses harnessed together contrariwise, and each
striving to go forward by pulling the other back; while in the other,
they travel amicably and fleetly, side by side, toward the fountain of

Next after courtesy comes simplicity, which may be defined as
forgetfulness of self. There is nothing more fatal to agreeable
Conversation than thinking perpetually of one's self. Young persons,
on first going into society, are very apt to fall into the error of
supposing that all eyes and ears are fixed upon them, to observe how
awkwardly or how gracefully they move, and how well or how ill they
converse. This is the result of a mental egotism combined with love
of admiration, and usually produces awkward diffidence or absurd
affectation. Too often the first weakness is overcome, or covered up,
most unwisely, by exchanging bashfulness for impertinent boldness; while
the vanity and self-consciousness of the second very rarely result in
manners or Conversation either sensible or agreeable. To overcome these
defects, wisely, requires a strong effort. They should be radically
subdued by learning to ask one's self, "Am I doing what is right and
proper?" instead of, "What will people think of me?" It is no easy
task to learn to do this habitually, because there is involved in it
a radical change of Character. It is to learn to _be_, instead of to
_seem_. In the first state, we are absorbed by the idea of what we
_seem_ to others; while, in the second state, we are occupied with the
idea of what we really _are_, without regard to the opinion of anybody,
but guided strictly by the abstract law of right. In the first state,
we are embarrassed by the complexity of our wishes and aims. We wish to
please everybody, and we strive to ascertain what will be agreeable
to the various tastes of those with whom we converse. Thus we have no
constant landmark, no unvarying compass to guide us on our way; and we
are drawn hither and thither, as we try now to please one person and
then another. Let our wishes and aims but become simple, and we walk
steadily and surely in the light. In the complexity of our desires we
were slaves; but in their simplicity we become free. Complexity strives
perpetually after reputation, and is always advancing either in the
direction of servility or of arrogance, according as self-esteem or
the love of admiration predominate in the mind of the individual; and
advancing years find it ever deteriorating in all the best elements of
Character. Simplicity, on the contrary, deals with what is, and not with
what seems to be, and is ever seeking growth in goodness and truth;
and therefore each added year finds it growing in all the graces of
improving manhood or womanhood. Complexity grows old in mind no less
than in body. Its moral being is scarred and wrinkled by selfishness and
worldliness, and its intellect dried up and withered by narrow views and
unworthy aims. In its old age there is nothing genial or lovely, and in
its death one could almost believe that soul as well as body perishes.
Simplicity improves in mind as it grows old in body. There are no
wrinkles on the brow of its sunny spirit; there is no withering of its
intellect. Its life, in time, is a perpetual advance in all that is
gracious and intelligent,--a steady ripening for eternity,--and its
death is but a birth into a fuller and more perfect life.

In Conversation, complexity adapts itself artfully to others, in order
to gratify its own selfishness. It humors the selfishness and whims of
those to whom it speaks, in order to gain consideration from them, or to
make use of them in some way for its own advancement.

Simplicity, on the contrary, adapts itself artlessly to others, because
it is full of charity; and therefore desires to make others happy. Its
words are the overflow of genial thought and kindly affection; and all
hearts that hold aught in common with it open and expand before its
influences as plants start at the touch of spring. It is not so much the
words uttered that produce this effect, as the pleasant and kindly way
in which they are said; for this throws a grace and an attractive charm
about the most commonplace objects of its Conversation.

Intellectual brilliancy in Conversation dazzles and delights the
imagination; but it does not touch the heart. Simplicity, on the
contrary, always impresses itself upon our feelings with a power that is
all the more strong because we cannot analyze it by our intellect. We
talk with a person of simplicity about the common occurrences of the
day, and find ourselves, we know not why, more gentle, refined, and
happy than we were before. We are refreshed as by drinking from a pure
and undefiled fountain of sweet waters; refreshed as mere intellectual
power cannot refresh us; refreshed as no book can refresh us. There is a
harmonious completeness in the whole being of simplicity, a directness
and honesty in all it says and does, "a grace beyond the reach of art,"
in all its manifestations more potent, because more internal in its
effects, than anything can ever be that is born merely of the intellect.
There is no affectation, no straining for effect in simplicity. All is
natural and genuine with it. Its wit is never forced, its wisdom is
never stilted; nor is either ever dragged in for mere display. With
the simple, Conversation is like a brook flowing through a beautiful
country, and reflecting the varied scenes through which it passes in all
their grace and beauty.

Another important trait in Conversation is the correct use of words; and
the effort after this cannot fail to exert a beneficial influence on
the mental powers. In order to speak correctly, one must observe with
accuracy and think with justness; the endeavor to do this increases
our love for the truth and our capacity for perceiving it. Much of the
falsehood in the world is the result of carelessness in observation or
phraseology. We often hear two persons give an account of something they
have seen or heard, and are surprised at the discrepancies between the
two narrations. Probably neither person intended to deceive; but both
saw or heard carelessly, and so are incompetent to describe accurately;
and probably, also, neither has cultivated the habit of speaking
correctly, as that habit is not apt to be found united with carelessness
of observation. Such persons would, perhaps, look upon this sort of
carelessness as a venial offence; but it is not so. Anything that
interferes with, or diminishes the capacity for, perceiving or speaking
the truth is of importance, and should never be passed over lightly. God
is truth no less than love, and every variation from the truth is a sin
against him.

If we find we have related any fact or described any object incorrectly,
it is not enough that we apologize for the error by saying "we though it
was so." Such an error should impress us as a thing to be repented of,
and we should try to ascertain why and how it was that we fell into
it, and it should put us on our guard; that we may be more accurate in

Inaccuracy of speech often arises from a desire to tell a good
story, resulting from the love of admiration or from an ill-trained
imagination. The speaker colors, exaggerates, and distorts everything he
relates, carefully conceals all the facts on one side of a question, and
enlarges upon those of the opposite side with compensating fulness. It
is no uncommon thing to see this carried to such an extent that it is
idle to give credence to anything the person says; the more especially
as such a person very rarely stops with mere distortion of the facts
of a story. As the habit increases, invention supplies new facts and
details to make out all the parts desired, till the listener finds it
impossible to separate the true from the false, and the speaker is as
unable to distinguish his own inventions from the original facts; for
when the habit of speaking the truth is neglected, the capacity for
perceiving it is gradually lost.

In an intellectual point of view, the correct use of words is of the
utmost importance, if one would speak well. To attain this, it is
necessary to have a distinct idea of the meaning of words, and then to
endeavor to use such words as truly express the ideas of the mind. The
use of pet phrases and words is entirely at war with correctness in this
respect. With some persons, everything is pretty, from Niagara Falls to
the last new ribbon; while others find, or rather make, everything
nice, splendid, or glorious. It would be esteemed an insult to the
understanding of any person to suppose that the same idea or emotion
could be aroused in his mind by the sight of the sublimest work of
nature as by a trifling article of dress; yet if he use the same term to
describe it in each instance, he certainly lays himself open to such
an imputation. Want of thorough education is an inadequate excuse for
follies of this sort, because common sense combined with far less
knowledge than may be acquired in a common school is more than
sufficient to enable every one to use his native tongue with sufficient
propriety to save him from being ridiculous.

There is one specious gift which is almost sure to mislead those who are
largely endowed with it, and that is fluency. We listen with pain to
one who speaks hesitatingly and with difficulty, and who is obliged to
search his memory for words that will correctly represent his thoughts;
but if, when the words come, we find they really tells us something
worth waiting for, we feel far less weariness than in following the
unhesitating flow of words that are but empty sound. There is always
peculiar ease and pleasure in the exercise of a natural talent, and
those naturally possessed of fluency must of course find it hard to
restrain the tide of words that is perpetually flowing up to the lips;
but if they desire to converse agreeably, the effort must be made, and
self-denial must be attained. The benefit derived by an over-fluent
talker from self-restraint will be quite commensurate with the effort,
no less than with the added pleasure of the listener, for he will
gain in the power of accurate thought every time that he resists the
inclination to utter an unmeaning sentence.

A clear and distinct utterance is another faculty that should be
cultivated, for the effect of an otherwise interesting conversation
may be seriously impaired, and perhaps destroyed, by a slovenly or
indistinct articulation. Every word and syllable should receive its due
quantity of sound, yet without drawling or stiffness; while the voice
should be so modulated as to be heard without effort, and yet the
opposite fault of speaking too loud is avoided.

Correct pronunciation is a very desirable accomplishment, though
somewhat difficult to attain in its details, authorities are so various;
but probably the most comprehensive rule that can be observed is, as
far as possible to avoid provincialisms. A person's pronounciation can
hardly be elegant if it reveal at once of what State or city he is a
native; while freedom from local peculiarities is of itself a promise
of good pronunciation, as it shows either that the individual has taken
pains to weed out such peculiarities, or that he has been bred among
those who have done so. The pronunciation of the best scholars in every
part of our country is very similar, while the difference becomes more
and more strongly marked between the inhabitants of the various States
of the Union as we descend in the scale of education.

Finally, do not fear to be silent when you have nothing to say. Do not
talk for the mere sake of talking. To sit silently and abstractedly, as
if one were among but not of the company in which one may chance to be,
is discourteous; because it implies a fancied superiority, or an unkind
indifference. Good manners require that in company one should be alive
to what is going on, but this does not imply the necessity of always
talking. There is, almost always, in a mixed company, some Conversation
to which a third person may listen without intrusion; but if this should
not happen to be the case, it is far better to wait until something
occurs that gives one an opportunity of talking to some rational
purpose, than to insist that one's tongue shall incessantly utter
articulate sounds whether the brain give it anything to say or no. This
sort of purposeless talking exerts a positively injurious influence upon
the mind, by leading it into the too common error of mistaking sound for
sense, words for ideas.

Before quitting this important subject, there is a general view to be
taken of it in its universal bearings upon Character, which places it
among the most important branches of a wise education.

The true signification of education, according to one derivation of the
word, is the bringing or leading out of the faculties. The best educated
person is not he who has stored up in his memory the greatest number
of facts, but he whose faculties have become most strengthened and
perfected by what he has learned.

There are several studies pursued in our schools and colleges, such as
Greek, Latin, and Mathematics, rather because they are looked upon as
a kind of gymnastics, whereby the mental faculties in general are
educated, or developed and invigorated, than because they bring a
direct practical benefit to life; for of the numbers who exercise their
faculties upon them, while in the schools, not one in ten makes any
direct use of them afterwards. These studies require expensive books and
teachers, and a greater amount of time than can be given by the majority
of men and women; and moreover they cultivate the intellect without
doing anything for the heart. Without in any degree questioning or
undervaluing the great and varied benefit derived to the mind from these
studies in added accuracy, strength, and richness, there is still room
for wonder that Conversation, both as a science and an art, has no place
in our systems of education; since its practice is a daily necessity to
all, while its power, when wielded with skill, is second to none other
that is brought to bear upon the social circle.

Our young girls are nearly all of them taught music with great
expenditure of money, time, and labor; but whether we look to the
cultivation of actual talent, to the improvement of Character, or to
accomplishment as a means of making ourselves agreeable in society, how
profitably could a part of this time and labor be employed in acquiring
the power and the habit of accurate language, agreeable modulation,
distinct utterance, and courteous attention; and it can hardly be
doubted that a person who possesses the power of conversing well finds
and gives more pleasure in society than a person skilled to an equal
degree in music.

Conversation has, indeed, this advantage over all school studies; in
order to obtain its best requisites no books are needed beyond such as
are accessible to all, while its best teachers are the suggestions of
common sense, and the conscientious love of the true and the good.
Still, there are few persons whose efforts would not be crowned with a
higher success if aided by the criticism and the guidance of a competent
instructor. Those who are competent to self-instruction in this, as
in all other accomplishments, are exceptional examples, and it may be
doubted if even these might not have reached a higher excellence, aided
by the suggestions of another mind. Properly cultivated, Conversation
would have an influence in developing the whole being, of a kind and
degree that could hardly be over-estimated. In its exercise, Thought and
Affection have full play, while all the stores of Memory and the wealth
of Imagination find ample field for display.

Conversation is so comprehensive in its manifestations and necessities,
that it can reach its perfection only through the development of the
whole being, moral as well as intellectual; and it will constantly
become more finished in proportion as this development becomes more
complete. Its universality, its hourly necessity, should impress us
with its value; for the mercy of the Lord, as it gives light and air,
sunshine and shower, seedtime and harvest, in short, all the essentials
of physical development to the whole human race, so it supplies to all
the power and the essential means for disciplining and cultivating the
whole Character.


"There is something higher in Politeness than Christian moralists have
recognized. In its best forms, as a simple, out-going, all-pervading
spirit, none but the truly religious man can show it; for it is the
sacrifice of self in the little habitual matters of life,--always the
best test of our principles,--together with a respect, unaffected, for
man, as our brother under the same grand destiny."--C. L. BRACK.

"Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase,
barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible
operation, like that of the air we breathe in."--BURKE.

       *       *       *       *       *

Manners are the most external manifestation by which men display their
individual peculiarities of mind and heart; and unless used artificially
to conceal the true Character, they form a transparent medium through
which it is exhibited.

It has been sarcastically asserted, that few persons exist who can
afford to be natural; and it is probable that if the human race were to
allow their manners to be perfectly natural; that is, were they to allow
all the passions of the soul to display themselves without restraint in
their manners, social intercourse would become insupportable. Among
the merely worldly, the difference between an ill-bred and a well-bred
person is that the former displays his discomfort, ill-humor, or
selfishness in his Manners, while the latter conceals them all under a
veil of suavity and kindness. Selfishness prompts the one to be rude,
and the other to be hypocritical, and each is alike unworthy of

Manners are the garments of the spirit; the external clothing of the
being, in which Character ultimates itself. If the Character be simple
and sincere, the Manners will be at one with it; will be the natural
outbirth of its traits and peculiarities. If it be complex and
self-seeking, the Manners will be artificial, affected, or insincere.
Some persons make up, put on, take off, alter, or patch their Manners to
suit times and seasons, with as much facility, and as little apparent
consciousness of duplicity, as if they were treating their clothes in
like fashion. If an individual of this class is going to meet company
with whom he wishes to ingratiate himself, he puts on his most polished
Manners, as a matter of course, just as he puts on his best clothes;
and when he goes home, he puts them off again for the next important
occasion. For home use, or for associating with those about whose
opinion he is indifferent, no matter how rude the Manners, or how
uncared for the costume. Perhaps the rudeness may chance to come out in
some overt act that will not bear passing over in silence, and then the
perpetrator utters an "excuse me," that reminds one of a bright new
patch set upon an old faded garment. Not that such a patch is unworthy
of respect when worn by honest poverty, and set on with a neatness that
makes it almost ornamental. This is like the "excuse me" of a truly,
well-bred man, apologizing for an offence he regrets; while the "excuse
me" of the habitually rude man is like the botched patch of the sloven
or the beggar, who wears it because the laws of the land forbid

The fine lady of this class may be polished to the last degree, when
arrayed in silks and laces she glides over the rich carpets of the
drawing-room; and yet, with her servants at home, she is possibly less
the lady than they; or worse still, this fine lady, married, perhaps, to
a fine gentleman of a character similar to her own, in the privacy of
domestic life carries on a civil war with him, in which all restraint of
courtesy is set aside.

There is so much undeniable hypocrisy in the high-bred courtesy of
polished society, that among many religious persons there has come to
be an indifference, nay, almost an opposition, to Manners that savor of
elegance or courtliness. If, however, Christian charity reign within,
rudeness or indifference cannot reign without. One may as well look for
a healthy physical frame under a skin revolting from disease, as for a
healthy moral frame under Manners rude and discourteous; for Manners
indicate the moral temperament quite as accurately as the physical
temperament is revealed by the complexion. Selfishness and arrogance
of disposition express themselves in indifferent, rude, or overbearing
Manners; while vanity and insincerity are outwardly fawning and
sycophantic. If Christian charity reign in the heart, it can fitly
express itself only in Manners of refinement and courtesy; and the
Christian should not be unwilling to wear such Manners in all sincerity,
because the worlding assumes them to serve his purposes of selfishness.
Worldly wisdom ever pays Virtue the compliment of imitation; but that is
no good reason why Virtue should hesitate to appear like herself. The
best Manners possible are the simple bringing down of the perfect law of
charity into the most external ultimates of social life. Until Character
tends at all times, and in all places, and towards all persons, to
ultimate itself in Manners of thorough courtesy, it is not building
itself upon a sure foundation. The ultimates of all things serve as
their basis and continent; therefore must true charity of heart be built
upon and contained within true charity of Manner.

When we are in doubt regarding the value of any particular trait of
Character, we can generally find the solution of our difficulty by
working out an answer to the question, How does it affect our usefulness
in society? There are three modes in which we express ourselves towards
those with whom we come in contact in the family and social relations of
life,--Action, Conversation, and Manners. The importance of ordering
the first two of these expressions aright can hardly be doubted by any
thinking being; but that conscience has anything to do with Manners
would probably be questioned by many. Let us ascertain the moral bearing
of Manners by the test just indicated.

What effect have our Manners upon our usefulness as social beings?
Conversation is in general the expression of our thoughts; much more
seldom do we express our affections in words. Manners, on the contrary,
are the direct expression of our affections. They are to Action what
tone is to Conversation. Many persons may be found who make use of
falsehood in their Conversation, but very few who can lie in the tones
of their voice. So many persons can act hypocritically, but there are
comparatively few whose Manners are habitually deceitful. Our words and
actions are more easily under our control than our tones and manners;
because the former are more the result of Thought, while the latter
are almost entirely the result of Affection. Although few persons are
distinctly aware of this difference, every one is powerfully affected by
it. There is no physical quality more powerful to attract or to repel
than the tones of the voice; and this power is all the stronger because
both parties are usually unconscious of it; and so mutually act and are
acted upon, simply and naturally, without effort or resistance. Thus
conversation often owes its effect less to the words used than to the
tones in which they are uttered. An unpalatable truth may come without
exciting any feeling of irritation or opposition from one who speaks
with a tone of voice expressive of the benevolent affections, and
produce much good; while the very same words, uttered in a tone of
asperity or bitterness, may exasperate the hearer, and be productive
only of harm. It has already been said, that Manners bear the same
relation to life that tone bears to conversation; and a good life loses
great portion of the power it might exert over those who come within the
influence of its sphere if it ultimate itself in ungracious or repulsive
Manners. In the old English writers we often find persons characterized
as Christian gentlemen or Christian ladies; and courtesy seems formerly
to have been clearly understood to be a Christian virtue. Our conflict
with, and our escape from, the aristocracy and privileges of rank of
older nations has caused a reaction, not only against them, but also
against the external politeness which was connected with them, and
which was, and is too often, though certainly not always, false and
hypocritical; and thus the growth of republican principles has had the
effect to diminish the respect once entertained for good Manners, and
the mass of our countrymen seem to look upon politeness as an antiquated
remnant of a past age, which the present has outgrown as entirely as
wigs and hoop-petticoats. It is, however, a curious feature in the
change, that at no previous time have the titles of gentleman and lady
been so universally and pertinaciously assumed as at the present. The
rudest even are resentful at being called simply men or women, while
they unconsciously show the weakness of their claim to a higher title by
denying it to those who they assume are no better than themselves. The
often-repeated anecdote of the Yankee stage-driver who asked of the Duke
of Saxe Weimer, "Are you the man that wants an extra coach?" and on
being answered in the affirmative, said, "Then I am the gentleman to
drive you," is an illustration of what is going on continually around
us. A large proportion of the members of one half of society stands in
perpetual fear that those in the other half do not esteem them gentlemen
and ladies; and yet it seldom seems to occur to them to substantiate
their claim to the coveted title by that cultivation of good Manners,
which can alone make it theirs of right.

The artificial Manners and laws of social life are so overloaded with
conventionalisms, and a knowledge of these is so often made a test of
good-breeding, that much confusion of opinion exists regarding the
requisites that constitute the true gentleman and lady. These titles
belong to something real, something not dependent on the knowledge and
practice of conventionalisms that change with every changing season,
but to substantial qualities of Character which are the same yesterday,
to-day, and to-morrow.

The foundation of good Manners is the sincere acknowledgment that we are
all children of one great family, all one band of brothers, each having
a right to receive from the rest all the consideration and forbearance
that can be given him without diminishing the portion that belongs to
the others. The rich complain of the envy and jealousy of the poor, and
the poor murmur because of the arrogance and haughtiness of the rich;
yet if those among the two classes who are guilty of these vices were to
change positions, they would change vices too; for arrogance _in_ the
possessor and envy _towards_ the possessor of wealth are but differing
phases of a love for wealth based on the love for that consideration
in society which it gives, and not for the power it yields of added

The ill-bred fashionist sails haughtily into the shop where she obtains
materials for her adornment, and with a supercilious air purchases her
ribbons and laces of a sulky girl, who revenges herself for not being
able to wear the costly gauds by treating as rudely as she dares the
customer who can; and as they look upon each other, the one with scorn,
and the other with envious hate, we see in both only the very same
littleness of feminine vanity, which in its narrow-minded silliness
believes that the first requisite of a lady is costly garments.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that in our higher society there
are no good Manners, none that are really good in essence and purpose,
as well as in form; and it would be an equal mistake to suppose, that in
all society of lower caste there is either a want of true refinement or
an envy and distrust of all that is above it; but it is also true that
there is a magic circle known as "genteel," and a perpetual antagonism
prevails here between those who are within and those who desire
admittance, but are refused; as there are literary circles where
contentions and envyings arise between pedantic scholarship and assuming

The ill-breeding so often complained of in the intercourse between the
different classes of society, and by none more indignantly than those
who exercise it most, results from the factitious value set upon the
externals of life by those who estimate them in proportion as they give
distinction among men, and not as they increase the means of happiness
and usefulness in this world, and so prepare us for the usefulness and
happiness of the world to come.

Those among the poor, the ignorant, and the vulgar, whose hearts are
burning with envy and hatred; and those among the rich, the learned, and
the fashionable, who are rendered arrogant and supercilious by their
possessions, are alike unconscious of the true worth of the blessings
that excite the covetousness of the one class and the exultation of the
other. Each party values man for his possessions, and not for the use
that he makes of them; for what he has, and not for what he is. Where
this is the case, mutual aversion ultimating itself on both sides in
acts of discourtesy, will ever keep alive a spirit of antagonism among
the various classes of society; and this will disappear in proportion as
society becomes sufficiently Christianized to perceive and acknowledge
that every human being is worthy of respect so far as he fulfils the
duties of his station; and that we cannot be discourteous even towards
the evil and the unfaithful, without indulging feelings of pride and
disdain that are incompatible with Christian meekness.

In the social intercourse of equals, and in domestic life, ill-temper,
selfishness, and indifference, which is a negative form of selfishness,
are the principal sources of ill-breeding. Where the external forms of
courtesy are not observed in the family circle, we are almost sure to
find perpetually recurring contention and bickering. Rudeness is a
constant source of irritation; because, however little the members of a
family regard politeness, each will have his own way of being rude,
and each will probably be disgusted or angry at some portion of the
ill-breeding of all the rest. Rudeness is always angular, and its
sharp corners produce discomfort whenever they come in contact with a
neighbor. Politeness presents only polished surfaces, and not only never
intrudes itself upon a neighbor, but is rarely obtruded upon; for there
is no way so effectual of disarming rudeness as by meeting it with
thorough politeness; for the rude man can fight only with his own

Indifference of Manner exhibits a disregard for the comfort and pleasure
of those around us, which, though not so obtrusive as rudeness, shows an
egotism of disposition incompatible with brotherly love. If we love our
neighbor as ourself, we cannot habitually forget his existence so far
as to annoy him by neglecting to perform, the common courtesies of life
towards him, or interfere with what he is doing by not perceiving that
we are in his way.

If we would be thoroughly well-bred, we must be so constantly. It is not
very difficult to distinguish in society between those whose manners are
assumed for the occasion and those who wear them habitually. The former
are apt to forget themselves occasionally, or they overact their part,
or if they succeed in sustaining a perfect elegance of deportment that
is really pleasing as an effort of art, they always want the grace of
naturalness and simplicity which belongs to the Manners of those who
have made courtesy and refinement their own by loving them. It is only
when we act as we love to act, that our Manners are truly our own. If we
cultivate the external forms of politeness from an indirect motive, that
is, from the love of approbation, or from pride of character, it is the
reward we love, and not the virtue; and if we gain this reward, it is
only external and perishable; and is of no benefit to our character, but
the reverse, for it ministers only to our pride. If, on the contrary,
we cultivate politeness with simplicity, because we believe it to be a
virtue, and love it for its own sake, we are sure of the reward of an
added grace of character, which can never be taken from us, because it
is a part of ourselves; and though we may enjoy the external rewards if
they come, we shall not be disturbed if they do not; because these were
not the motives that induced our efforts.

Politeness, where it is loved and cultivated with simplicity for its own
sake, gives a repose and ease of action to the moral being which may be
compared to the comfort and satisfaction resulting to the physical
frame from habits of personal cleanliness. The moral tone is elevated
and refined by the one, as the animal functions are purified and renewed
by the other.

As in civil life liberty to the whole results from the subjection of
the evil passions of all to legal enactments, so in social life every
individual is free and at ease in proportion as all the rest are subject
to the laws of courtesy. Ease and freedom are the result of order,
and it is as incorrect to call rude Manners free and easy, as to call
licentiousness liberty. No man is truly free who allows his sphere of
life to impinge upon that of his neighbor. Fluids are said to move
easily because each particle is without angular projections that prevent
it from gliding smoothly with or by its companions; and in like manner
the ease of society depends on the polish of each individual. If the
units of society seek their own selfish indulgence, without regard to
the rights of the neighbor, the whole must form a mass of grating atoms
in which no one can be free, or at ease.

Indifference, ill-temper, selfishness, envy and arrogance, all positive
vices, are the characteristics that ultimate themselves in ill-manners.
Rudeness is, as it were, the offensive odor exhaled from the corrupt
fruit of an evil tree; and he who would be a branch of the true vine
must remember, whenever he is tempted to do a rude thing, that he will
never yield to such temptation unless there is hidden somewhere upon his
branch fruit that should be cut off and cast into the fire.

The Christian gentleman and lady are such because they love their
neighbor as themselves; and to be a thorough Christian without being
a gentleman or lady is impossible. Wherever we find the rich without
arrogance, and the poor without envy, the various members of society
sustaining their mutual relations without suspicion or pretension, the
family circle free from rivalry, fault-finding, or discord, we shall
find nothing ungentle, for there the spirit of Christianity reigns. He
who is pure in heart can never be vulgar in speech, and he who is meek
and loving in spirit can never be rude in manner.


  Learn to admire rightly; the great pleasure of life is that. Note what
  the great men admired; they admired great things: narrow spirits admire
  basely, and worship meanly."--THACKERAY.

  "According to the temper and spirit by which it is influenced, prayer
  opens or shuts the kingdom of life and peace on the soul of the
  supplicant, elevating him either to a closer conjunction with the Lord
  and his angelic kingdom, or plunging him into a more deplorable depth
  of separation, by immersing him into association with the lost
  spirits of darkness."--CLOWES.

         *       *       *       *       *

Man was not born to live alone, and it is only in and through the
relations of the family and the social circle that the better parts of
his nature can be developed. Solitude is good occasionally, and they who
fly from it entirely can hardly attain to any high degree of spiritual
growth; but still in all useful solitude there must be a recognition of
some being beside self. He who turns to solitude only to brood over
thoughts of self, soon becomes a morbid egoist, and it is only when we
study in solitude in order to make our social life more wise and true
that our solitary hours are blessed.

Man really alone is something we can hardly imagine. He becomes
cognizable almost entirely through his relations with God and with his
fellow-men. Heathen philosophy sought to make man wise by withdrawing
him from the passions and affections that move him when associated with
his fellow-men, in order that he might devote himself to the study of
abstract truth. Christian philosophy teaches that truth owes its
sanctity to the Divine Love, which alone gives it Life; and that by
leading a life of love we acquire the power of understanding the truth.
Philosophy is a dead abstraction until piety and charity fill it with
the breath of life.

The offices of piety belong in great part to solitude, and the offices
of charity to society; but the principle of Companionship is involved in
both; for piety associates us with God as charity associates us with

All Companionship involves the idea of both giving and receiving. In the
offices of piety, in proportion as we give a worship that is earnest and
heartfelt, is the warmth and clearness of the influx of heavenly love
and wisdom that we receive. In the offices of charity, our love is
warmed and our wisdom enlightened in proportion as we disinterestedly
seek the true happiness of those whose lives come within the sphere of
our influence, guided, not by blind instinct, but by an enlightened
Christianity. Thus the quality and quantity of what we receive from
Companionship depends on the quality and quantity of what we give.

There is no surer test of Character than the Companionship we habitually
seek; for we always prefer the society of those who administer to our
dominant love. Some seek the society of their superiors, others of their
equals, and others, again, of their inferiors; and the members of each
class are actuated in their choice by very various motives. Thus, among
the first class are found the ambitious, who seek their superiors
because they fancy themselves elevated by the reflection of the
attributes they admire; the proud, who fancy themselves degraded by
association with their inferiors; and the humble, who seek to be
advanced in goodness, in knowledge, or in refinement through intercourse
with those who excel. On the other hand are those who seek their
inferiors from the vanity that demands admiration as its daily food, or
the pride that feels itself oppressed in the presence of a superior, or
the philanthropy that loves to give of its stores to those less endowed
than itself. The middle class may be actuated in their choice by the
love of sympathy in their pursuits, or by a kind of indolence that is
disturbed by whatever differs much from itself. There is less purpose
and vitality in this class than in either of the others; but merely a
desire to float with the surrounding current, whithersoever it may tend.

The constituents of society are so varied in quality, that it would be
very difficult for any one to associate exclusively with a particular
class; and it may be doubted if we have a right to seek to do so. The
variety in social life is adapted to develop the various qualities of
the human soul far more perfectly than they could be if the different
classes of humanity were entirely separated in their walks. All should
be willing to give as well as to receive, and to this end all should be
willing to associate in a spirit of brotherly love with their superiors
or their inferiors without any feeling either of servility or of
elation. We may seek the society of our superiors in order to enrich
ourselves, and that of our inferiors in order to give freely even as we
have received; while with our equals we alternately give and receive,
for no two persons are so similarly endowed but that each may gain by
associating with the other. In truth, whichever way the balance may
incline, none ever give without receiving, and none can receive without

No Companionship is wise that does not involve the principle of growth.
If the influence of our associates does not make us go forward, it will
surely cause us to go backward. If we are not elevated by it, we shall
certainly be degraded. Two persons cannot associate and either party
remain just as he was before; and if we would find in society an element
of growth, we must seek for all that is elevating in whatever circles we
move; for it is not confined to any particular circle or class, but
waits everywhere for the true seeker.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, said the Lord,
teaching as never man taught; and it is in proportion as we walk meekly
with our fellow-men that our capacities become capable of receiving, to
their fullest extent, the influx of goodness and truth that should be
the end of social intercourse. Nothing obstructs our receptivity so much
as that egoism of thought and affection which keeps self perpetually
before the mind's eye, and to this egoism meekness is the direct
opposite. Meekness implies forgetfulness of self. There is nothing
servile about it, but it pursues its way in pure simplicity, forgetting
self in its steadfast devotion to what it seeks. Egoism pursues its aims
from love of self and of the world, and confides in its own strength for
success. Meekness pursues its aims from the love of excellence, and
confiding in the strength of the Lord. The first love is dim of sight,
and often satisfies itself with the shadow of what it seeks, while its
strength is too feeble to grasp the higher forms of excellence. The
second love is full of light, because its eye is single; it can be
satisfied only with substance, and its endeavors know no limit, because
its strength comes from Him who never fails nor wearies.

Meekness is always ready to receive of the excellence it seeks, through
whatever medium it can be obtained; while egoism is perpetually hindered
in its advancement by its unwillingness to owe it to any source out of

Similar results follow in giving as in receiving. Meekness gives in
simplicity from love to the neighbor, and feels as great pleasure in
imparting from its stores as in receiving additions to them, because the
pleasure it imparts is reflected back upon itself, making all its good
offices twice blessed. Egoism is twice cursed, as all that it receives
and all that it gives perpetually adds to its love of self; for it
values what it possesses because it is its own, and imparts to others
because it enjoys a feeling of superiority over the recipient of its
possessions. Meekness builds itself up; egoism puffs itself up. To
meekness Companionship is a perpetual source of healthful growth; while
to egoism it furnishes food only to supply the demands of a morbid
enlargement, destructive to all manly and womanly symmetry.

Society at large, according as we walk in it in a spirit of meekness or
a spirit of egoism, thus serves to develop and expand our powers, or to
narrow and degrade them more and more continually. To the casual
observer, the difference in the advancement of the two classes may not
in early life be apparent. The forth-putting pretension of egoism may
indeed cause it to seem the more rapidly advancing character of the two;
but the progress of years will widen the separation between their paths,
till it shall be seen as a great gulf, of which the opposite sides have
naught in common. Advancing age will show the egoist narrow-minded and
overbearing, peevish and fault-finding; while he who pursues his even
course, walking in Christian meekness with his fellow-men, will in old
age exhibit ever-enlarging charity and ever-expanding wisdom, and his
gray hairs will seem like a crown of glory.

It may seem almost needless to speak of the danger to Character that is
involved in seeking the Companionship of the worthless or the evil-
disposed. "Can one handle pitch and not be defiled?" Yet the usages of
society are so disordered, that the possession of wealth, family
distinction, or personal elegance, though accompanied by ignorance,
folly, or even dissoluteness, is sometimes a surer passport into what is
termed good society than the best culture of mind and heart, where
external advantages have been denied.

When we value mankind according to their external advantages, our moral
standard is as false as the drawing upon a Chinese plate. We have no
true moral perspective. Our ideas of right and wrong are confused and
imperfect, and in danger of becoming corrupt. We laugh at the stupidity
of the poor Chinaman in his attempts after beauty in art, while in
morals we are quite as stupid as he. Believing ourselves wise, we are
fools. It is very hard to escape being unduly influenced by the opinions
of society; but the more earnestly we seek true excellence for
ourselves, the more easily we learn to value true excellence in others,
and, to overlook the opinions of the world. The more independent we
become of opinion, the better will be the influence we exert upon
society, as well as that which we receive from it in return.

If the influence of our Companionship with those whom we meet in general
society and in the daily avocations of life be important, far more so is
that which comes to us through the friends whom we select from the world
at large as best adapted to minister to our happiness; and in proportion
as they are near and dear to us will their influence be strong and deep.

The choice of friends is influenced by an equal variety of motives, and
of a similar nature as those that lead to the selection of the social
circle. There is often no better foundation than selfishness for what
passes current in the world for ardent friendship. The selfish and
worldly love from selfish and worldly motives, and doubtless they
receive their reward; but if we would derive the advantages to Character
that result from a wise Companionship, we must select our friends
without undue regard to the opinions of the world, and impelled by a
desire for moral or intellectual advancement. Falsehood and fickleness
in friendship result from its being built upon merely selfish or
circumstantial foundations. When built upon mutual respect and
affection, it contains no element of decay or change; and they who trust
to any other foundation have no right to complain if their confidence is
abused and disappointed.

Persons sometimes suppose themselves the fast friends of others, when
their affection is merely the result of benefits received directly or
indirectly; and if these benefits are withheld, their supposed
friendship is dissipated at once, or perhaps changed to enmity. Such a
friendship is merely circumstantial, and has no just claim to the name.
Mere juxtaposition, the habit of seeing each other every day, is often
sufficient to produce what the parties concerned esteem friendship, and
to occasion the freest interchange of confidence. The slightest change
of circumstance, a few miles of separation, an inadvertent offence, a
trival difference of opinion, a clashing of interests, are, any one of
them, sufficient to bring such an intimacy to an end, and to cast
reproach upon the sacred name of friendship, when friendship had never
existed between the parties for a single moment.

Genuine friendship can exist only between persons of some elevation of
moral character, and its strength and devotion will be commensurate with
the degree of this moral elevation. Truthfulness, frankness,
disinterestedness, and faithfulness are qualities absolutely essential
to friendship, and these must be crowned by a sympathy that enters into
all the joys, the sorrows, and the interests of the friend, that
delights in all his upward progress, and, when he stumbles or falls, as
all at times must, stretches out the helping hand, not condescendingly
nor scornfully, but in the simplicity of true charity, that forgives
even as it would be forgiven, and is tender and patient even where it
condemns. In such a friendship there is no room for rivalry, weariness,
distrust, or anything subversive of confidence. With the selfish and the
worldly, such a connection cannot exist, because with them rivalries and
clashing interests must arise; for it is only among the seekers after
excellence that there is room for the gratification of the desires of
all. Neither can it exist between the false, for falsehood shuts the
door upon confidence; nor with the morally weak, the foolish, or the
idle, for they weary of each other even as they weary of themselves.

Of all earthly Companionship, there is none so deeply fraught with weal
or woe, with blessing or with cursing, as the Companionship of married
life. After this relationship is formed, although the threads still
remain the same, the whole warp and woof of the being are dyed with a
new color, woven according to a new pattern. Character is never the same
after marriage as before. There is a new impetus given by it to the
powers of thought and affection, inducing them to a different activity,
and deciding what tendencies are henceforth to take the lead in the
action of the mind; whether the soul is to spread its wings for a higher
flight than it has hitherto ventured, or to sit with closed pinions,
content to be of the earth, earthy. All are interested, even strangers,
In hearing of the establishment of a newly married pair in what relates
to the equipage of external life. Far more interesting would it be if we
could trace the mental establishing that is going on, as old traits of
character are confirmed or cast aside, and new ones developed or

This union, so sacred that it even supersedes that which exists between
parent and child, should be entered upon only from the highest and
purest motives; and then, let worldly prosperity come or go as it may,
this twain whom God has joined, not by a mere formal ritual of the
Church, but by a true spiritual union that man cannot put asunder, are a
heaven unto themselves, and peace will ever dwell within their

In proportion as a true marriage of the affections between the pure in
heart is productive of the highest happiness that can exist on earth, so
every remove from it diminishes the degree of this happiness until it
passes into the opposite, and becomes, in its most worldly and selfish
form, a fountain of misery, of a quality absolutely infernal.

Amid the disorder and imperfection reigning in the world, it is not to
be supposed that a large proportion of marriages should be truly
heavenly. In order to arrive at this, both parties must be of a higher
moral standing than is often reached at an age when marriage is usually
entered upon; but unless the character of each is inclined heavenward
there is no rational ground for anticipating happiness, except of the
lowest kind.

Many persons of a naturally amiable disposition enjoy what may seem a
high degree of happiness, through their sympathy with each other in
worldliness and ambition; but such happiness is not of a kind that can
endure the clouds and tempests of life. It is nourished only by the good
things of this world, and, if it cannot obtain them, is converted into
the greater wretchedness because the being who is dearest in life shares
this wretchedness. When, on the contrary, things heavenly are those most
highly prized and earnestly sought, each party helps to sustain the
other in all earthly privations and disappointments; for each is looking
beyond and above the trials of earth, and each is in possession of a
hope, nay, a fruition, that cannot be taken away, and which is dearer
than all that is lost. With them, to suffer together is to rob suffering
of half its weight, and almost all its bitterness. Whatever earthly
deprivation may befall them, the kingdom of heaven is ever within their

The Companionship of our fellow-beings is not confined to the living men
and women around us, but comes to us, through books, from all nations
and ages. Wise teachers stand ever ready to instruct us, gentle
moralists to console and strengthen us, poets to delight us. Scarce a
country village is so poor that there may not be found beneath its roofs
the printed words of more great men than ever lived at any one period of
the earth's history.

We are too apt to use books, as well as society, merely for our
amusement; to read the books that chance to fall into our hands, or to
associate with the persons we happen to meet with, and not stop to ask
ourselves if nothing better is within our reach. It may not be in our
power to associate with great living minds, but the mental wealth of the
past is within the reach of all. We boast much that we are a reading
people, but it may be well to inquire how intelligently we read. The
catalogues of books borrowed from our public libraries show, that, where
the readers of works of amusement are counted by hundreds, the readers
of instructive books are numbered by units. In conversation, it is not
uncommon to hear persons expressing indifference or dislike to whole
classes of books,--to hear Travels denounced as stupid, Biography as
tame, and History as heavy and dull. It does not seem to occur to the
mass of minds that any purpose beyond the amusement of the moment is to
be thought of in reading, or that any plan should be laid, or any
principles adopted, in the choice of books to be read.

It is undoubtedly a great good that nearly all our people are taught to
read, but it is a small fraction of the community that reads to much
good purpose. Children, so soon as they have acquired the use of the
alphabet, are inundated with little juvenile stories, some of them good,
but most of them silly, and many vulgar. As they grow older, successions
of similar works of fiction await them, until they arrive at
adolescence, when they are fully prepared for all the wealth of folly,
vulgarity, falsehood, and wickedness that is bound up within the yellow
covers of most of the cheap novels that infest every highway of the

As you are jostled through the streets of our populous cities, or take
your seat in a crowded railway-car, you are, perhaps, impressed with the
general air of rudeness that pervades the scene,--a rudeness of a kind
so new to the world, that, no old word sufficing to describe it, a new
name has been coined, and the swaggering, careless, sensual looking
beings, reeking with the fumes of tobacco, that make up the masses of
our moving population, are adequately described only by the word
_rowdy_. As yet, no title has been found for the female of this class,
--bold, dashing, loud-talking and loud-laughing, ignorant, vain, and so
coarse that she supposes fine clothes and assuming manners are all that
is necessary to elevate her to the rank of a lady. Perhaps you wonder
how so numerous a race of these beings has come to exist; but that boy
at your elbow, bending under the weight of his literary burden, is a
colporteur for converting the men and women of this "enlightened nation"
to rowdyism. Those books portray just such men and women as you see
before you, and that is why they are welcomed so warmly. A few cents
will buy from that boy enough folly and impurity to gorge a human mind
for a week, and possibly few among this throng often taste more
wholesome intellectual food.

It is probable that some of these persons are the children of
intelligent and well-bred parents; but their fathers were engrossed in
business, and their mothers in family cares, and thought they had no
time to form the moral and intellectual tastes of the immortal minds
committed to their charge. They fancied that if they sent their children
to good schools, and provided liberally for all their external wants,
they had done enough. Ignorant nursery maids, perhaps, taught them
morals and manners, while the father toiled to accumulate the means for
supplying their external wants, and the mother hemmed ruffles and
scolloped trimming to make people say, "How _sweetly_ those children are
dressed!" as the maid paraded them through the streets, teaching them
their first lessons in vulgar vanity.

A child may be educated at the best schools without acquiring any taste
for good literature. The way a parent treats a child in relation to its
books has far more influence in this respect than a teacher can possibly
possess. A mother, even if she is not an educated woman, can learn to
read understandingly, and can teach her child to read in the same way.
She can talk to it about its books, and awaken a desire in its mind to
understand what it reads. Children are always curious in regard to the
phenomena of nature, and whether this curiosity lives or dies depends
very much on the answers it receives to its first questions. If the
mother cannot answer them herself, she can help the child to find an
answer somewhere else, and she should beware how she deceives herself
with the idea that she has not time to attend to the moral and
intellectual wants of her child. She has no right to so immerse all her
own mind in the cares of life that she cannot, while attending to them,
talk rationally with her children. The mothers who best fulfil their
higher duties towards their children are quite as often found among
those who are compelled to almost constant industry of the hands, as
among those of abundant leisure. There is nothing in the handiwork of
the housekeeper or the seamstress that need absorb all the mental
attention; and hers must be an ill-regulated mind that cannot ply the
needle, or perform the more active duties of the household, and yet
listen to the child as it reads its little books, and converse with it
about the moral lessons or the intellectual instruction they contain.
The mother has it in her power to influence the mode in which the child
makes companions of its books more than any other person; and the
character of its Companionship with them through life will generally
depend in a great degree on the tastes and habits acquired in childhood.

Many parents who guard their children with jealous care from the
contamination of rude and vicious society among other children, allow
them to associate with ideal companions of a very degraded kind. The
parent should check the propensity, not only to read bad books, but also
to read idle or foolish books, by exciting the action of the mind
towards something better. Merely to deny improper books is not enough.
Something must be given in place of them, or the craving will continue,
and the child will be very apt to gratify its appetite in secret.

Children are easily led to observe nature, animate or inanimate, with
interest, and there are many simple books illustrating the departments
of natural science which mothers could make interesting to their
children at the same time that they instructed themselves. Juvenile
works on history abound, and through them the child may be led, as
intelligence expands, to seek more extended and thorough treatises; and
the sympathy of the mother should be ready to help him on his way. It is
mere self-deception in those mothers who deny their mental capacity, or
their command of time, to aid their children in their mental progress.
It is a _moral_ want of their own, far more than everything else, that
causes them to shrink from this most important responsibility.

Those who have passed the period of childhood, who have taken upon
themselves the responsibility of all that concerns their own minds, and
who have any desire after upward progress, should remember that the
books they love best are those which reflect their own characteristics.
Every one looks up to his favorite books, and the tone of his mind is
influenced by them in consequence. In our Companionship with our fellow-
beings we may be governed to a great extent by our desire to stand well
with the world, and therefore seek the society of those whom the world
most admires rather than those we most enjoy. In the choice of our books
there is much less influence of this kind exerted upon us. In the
retirement of our homes we may daily consort with the low or the wicked,
as they are delineated in books, and our standing with the world be in
no way affected, while the poison we imbibe will work all the more
surely that it works secretly. They whose ideas of right and wrong are
dependent on the judgment of the world may need even this poor guide,
and suffer from the want of it; for in doing what the world does not
know, and therefore cannot condemn, they may encounter evil and danger
from which even the love of the world would protect them, if the same
things were to be exposed to the public eye. We have no more moral right
to read bad books than to associate with bad men, and it would be well
for us in selecting our books to be governed by much the same principles
as in the selection of our associates; to feel that they are, in fact,
companions and friends whose opinions cannot fail to exert a powerful
influence upon us, and that we cannot associate with them
indiscriminately without great danger to our characters.

The Book of books, the Word of God, should occupy the first place in our
estimation; and the test question in regard to the value of all other
books is, whether they draw us towards, or away from, the Bible. So far
as they are written with a genuine love for goodness and truth, books in
every department of science and literature have a tendency, more or less
strong, to increase our reverence and love for the Source of all
goodness and truth; and no book can be subversive of our faith in the
Scriptures that has not its foundation laid in falsehood.

Nature may tell us of a Creator, but the Bible alone reveals a Father.
Nature describes him as far from us, removed beyond all sympathy, before
whose power we tremble, and whose mercy we might strive to propitiate by
sacrifices or entreaties; but from the Bible we learn that he is near at
hand, watching every pulsation of the heart, listening to every
aspiration that we breathe; that we walk with him so long as we obey his
commandments, and that though we may turn from him, he never turns from
us; that when we approach him in prayer, it should not be with fear,
but with love; and loving him with the knowledge that he first loved us,
we find that prayer, in its true form, is a Companionship, and that the
Father rejoices over his child in proportion as the child rejoices in
approaching the throne of mercy.

Pure and holy influences come to us immediately through our Companionship
with those among our fellow-beings who have received of the overflowings
of the Divine Fountain of goodness and truth. But when we reverently
approach that Fountain, we receive immediately, with a power and fulness
that can descend upon us through no human being.

What we receive through other mediums reaches only the lower and more
external planes of our being; but prayer brings us, if we pray aright,
before the throne of the Most High, and opens those inmost chambers of
the soul that remain for ever closed and empty unless they are opened
and filled by the immediate presence of the Lord. These constitute that
Holy of Holies which is the inmost of every human soul. The world at
large may enter its outer courts, chosen friends may minister before the
altar of its sanctuary, but within all this there is a holier place,
which none but the Lord can enter; for it is the seat of the vital
principle of the soul, which can be touched and quickened by no hand but

The quality of the life of the whole being depends upon the degree in
which we suffer the Lord to dwell within our souls. His Companionship
fills and vivifies everything that is below it. The more entirely we
walk with the Lord, the more constant we shall be in the performance of
all our duties. The more entirely we open our hearts to his influence,
the more benefit we shall receive from all other influences. The more
reverently we listen to the truth that comes directly from him, the more
capable we shall be of finding out and appreciating the truth that comes
indirectly. The more we open our hearts to receive his love, the more
perfect will be the love we shall bear towards our fellow-beings. The
more constantly we feel that we are in his presence, the more perfect
will be the hourly outgoings of our lives.

Intimate Companionship with the Lord does not abstract us from the world
around us, but fills that world with new meanings. There is nothing
abstract in the nature of the Deity. He is operating perpetually upon
all nature. Gravity, organic life, instinct, human thought and
affection, are forms of his influx manifesting itself in varying
relations. Wherever he comes there is life, and his activity knows no

Let no human being think that he holds Companionship with the Lord,
because he loves to retire apart, to pray, or to contemplate the divine
attributes, if, at such times, he looks down upon, and shuns the haunts
of men. The bigot may do so; and all his thoughts about things holy, all
his prayers, only confirm him in his spiritual pride. Every thought of
self-elevation, every feeling that tends towards "I am holier than
thou," smothers the breath of all true prayer, and associates us with
the spirit of evil; for our prayers cannot be blessed to us if pride
inspire them. Neither let any one suppose himself spiritual because
material life or material duties oppress him. God made the material
world as a school for his children; and he will not keep us here a
moment after we are prepared for a higher state. We are putting
ourselves back when we work impatiently, in the feeling that the duties
of life are beneath us.

If we would abide with our Heavenly Father, we must cooperate with him
perpetually. It is doing his will, not contemplating it, that teaches us
his attributes, and builds us up in his image and likeness. His fields
are ever white unto the harvest; let us work while it is yet day, ever
bearing in mind that he gives us the power to work, and that we can work
rightly only so long as we live in the constant acknowledgment of our
dependence upon Him.


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