Men are not born; they are made. Genius, worth, power of mind are more made than born. Genius born may grovel in the dust; genius made will mount to the skies. Our great and good men that stand along the paths of history bright and shining lights are witnesses of these truths. They stand there as everlasting pleaders for Employment. Now what is true of men in this respect is equally true of women. If Employment is the instrumentality in making men, it is equally so in making women. A human female is not a woman till she makes herself so. There is something noble, glorious, in a woman. She is the impersonation of spiritual beauty. But all females are not women. There are scores of them who are only female humanities; and scores more who are only ladies. A lady and a woman are two very different things. One is made at the hands of fashion; the other is the handiwork of God through the instrumentality of useful Employment. A lady is a parlor ornament, a walking show-gallery, a mistress of tongue-tied etiquette. A woman is a consecrated intelligence—a love baptized—a hand employed in the work of good. To be a woman requires exertion and prudence. Women are not born; neither do they grow up of themselves; they are made. Their virtues blossom in the garden of industry. Their fruits ripen on the boughs of toil. Their treasures grow on the tree of labor. A woman with nothing to do can not develop a truthful womanhood. A woman with no Employment for her hands or mind can be only the shadow of a woman. What is noble in her will doff its nobility. What is strong will become weak, and she will soon be an imbecile dependent on some one else.
A dependent life is an ignoble one, unless compelled by misfortune; just as ignoble in woman as in man. No woman of health and sound mind should allow herself to be or feel dependent on any body for her living. The sick are always dependent, though they have wealth at their command. But the well should never be dependent. To eat and wear the fruits of another's labor, tends to degradation. To feel that one is shining in borrowed plumes and eating the bread of dependence, is degrading to a noble mind. A noble mind will not willingly do it. The want of Employment, and the dependence of many women, have ruined their characters and made them little else than nuisances to their fellow-men. Thousands of women have no Employment, and live through life in a state of abject dependence. What are they, what can they be, under such circumstances? It requires Employment to develop men, why should not it to develop women? Dependent men are ninnies, why should not dependent women be? Where is the difference between the male and female mind, that one should be expected to be noble and magnanimous under circumstances which would be ruinous to the other? We know that a young man thrown upon his own resources is more likely to be a great, good man than when cradled upon the lap of luxury or fortune. Why is it? Simply because he seeks Employment and depends upon himself for what he is to be and do. He leans not on another, and hence grows strong by standing alone. Plant an acorn in the crevice of a barren rock, and it will strike down its roots and send them out in search of fastening places till it will surround the rock with a net of clinging fibers; and as the winds grow fiercer and the storms howl wilder, the oak will strike deeper and wider its anchoring roots. It will brace itself to meet the emergencies of its life. It will nerve its energies to stand its ground. It will gather vigor from every storm, resolution from every wind, strength from every defiant bolt from heaven.
So it is with man. Place him on his feet in a hard place, where the suns of life strike hotly upon him, and the storms blow fiercely, where he must stand by his own strength or fall, and he will grow into strength by the very pressure of adverse circumstances. Every blow of his own will give it strength; every effort of his mind will give it vigor; every trial of his character will knit firmer its binding fibers. This is equally true of woman. Her character is formed and her power developed in a similar way. A woman can no more be a true woman than a man can be a true man without Employment and self-reliance. I would have every boy and girl in the whole country taught to make their own living at some useful Employment; to mark out for themselves a sphere of action and then fill that sphere; to be useful in some honorable pursuit. I would not put the boys to trades and professions to make them great and good, and fold up the girls' hands and lay them away in the drawer or shut them up in the parlor. I would not make the boys self-reliant and vigorous by generous Employment, and the girls weak, puny, and dependent by idleness or folly. I would not give the boys opportunities to develop their powers and become noble men, and deprive the girls of all these glorious privileges. I would not open a thousand avenues to distinction, wealth, and worth to the boys and comparatively none to the girls. I would not send the boys out into the field of life bravely to earn their own living, and grow strong in doing it, and the girls out to beg their living of the boys, and grow weak and worthless in their dependent beggary. I like the girls too well to have them thus mistreated. I would give them just as good a chance as the boys have. They should not be degraded with half-pay, and only two or three ways to get a living, just because they were made to be women. They should not be shut out from a thousand avenues of distinction and usefulness, for they are richly endowed, just because they are made to be women. They should not be made to feel that it is degrading to be a woman, to feel, as a man expressed it to me the other day, that "women are such good-for-nothing creatures." I love noble, "strong-minded," and strong-hearted women. I wish we had more of them. I know of no way to make them but to give our girls more active Employment. Every girl should have a trade, a business, a profession, or some honorable and useful way of gaining a livelihood—some Employment in which her powers of body and mind may be amply developed. If she has not, she will be dependent upon somebody, and her dependence will degrade her; and her want of Employment will keep her a half-developed specimen of humanity.
If I had half-a-dozen boys, and should let them grow up in play around my house and on the streets, in visiting, gossiping, dressing, riding, dancing, asking nothing of them only to bring me my slippers, or some occasional act of kindness now and then, my neighbors would all cry out against me, declaring that I was spoiling my boys. They would denounce my course as absolute unkindness to the boys; would declare that they never would be any thing with such a miserable training. And yet my neighbors treat their girls in just this way. Now if it will spoil the boys, why will it not spoil the girls? If it is unkindness to the boys, why is it not unkindness to the girls? If boys can not be any thing with such a training, how can the girls be?
If the present generation of boys should be reared just as we are rearing our girls, what a puny race of men we should have with which to commence the next century! Men complain that women are such weak, good-for-nothing creatures that they are only fit to be wives and mothers. Now it seems to me that no woman is fit to be a wife and mother until she is a strong, self-reliant woman, both bodily and mentally. I take it that the more vigorous a woman's body and mind are, the better she is qualified to fulfill the duties of wife and mother.
I take it that the more self-reliant and independent a woman is, the better she is qualified to be a helpmate for her husband, and a wise and judicious counselor for her children. I take it that dignity of character, power of action, resolute will, commanding judgment, steady temper of mind, strong inward resources, are as essential in a good wife and mother as in a good husband and father. In a word, I take it that all that is noble, dignified, useful, and beautiful in character and life, is as essential in women as in men. If so, then why not give woman opportunities such as are necessary to develop her powers and form her character? Those opportunities can not be given without Employment. We can not make men without Employment; how can we expect to make women? How can a woman who has no aim in life, who lives to no purpose, who has nothing to accomplish, whose hands are idle, whose mind has nothing on which to fix its energies—who, in a word, spends a listless, trifling life—how can such a woman possess weight of character, force of mind, or mental worth? When God calls for her stewardship, how can she answer with any honor to herself? When she comes to see her soul disrobed of mortality, how naked and undeveloped it will look!
It appears to me that every young woman should aim to be something and do something. Her powers of mind and body should be applied to a good end. Her hands should be set to some useful employment and made skillful in it. It matters not so much what it is, as how she perseveres in it.
Great men are made in all trades and professions. So may great women be. Woman may rightfully employ her powers wherever she may do it most successfully to herself and her fellows. If our young women feel that they can sell tape and pins, set type or make shoes, keep books or manage a telegraph office; if they can keep a bakery or a dry-goods store, direct a Daguerreian gallery, or do any thing else that is right and proper to be done, let them not hesitate to do it. Let them accomplish themselves in the art or business that to them seems most agreeable, and set up for themselves. They will be a thousand times more happy and useful than in leading listless and thriftless lives. The kind of Employment is not a matter of so much importance as the fact of being employed. Our boys choose their occupations; so should our girls. But they should always choose to do something that is useful. Our homes are full of necessary and useful employments. Our girls should engage in them with zeal.
No matter if they are rich. They need Employment just as much. A rich young man is not excused from business—from acting nobly his part in life, and doing something worthy of a man. And if he excuses himself he will only be despised by the community in which he lives. We all understand that a young man has got a part to act in useful life, whether he is rich or poor. Why should it not be so with a young woman? Why should we excuse her on account of her riches? Why should she excuse herself? Idleness is the ruin of her body and mind; Employment will give both activity and strength. She will be wiser, better, happier by being employed in something that will benefit herself and the world. We have a strange theory about our young women that are well to do in the world. We think that they must be great babies, and be fed, and clothed, and housed, and posted about in carriages, waited upon and petted as though they were made for nothing else. It is horridly vulgar for such young women to work. It would be a violation of propriety for them to be useful. They would lose caste if they should engage in any useful employment. So they must be useless appendages, hung about the body of humanity to torment themselves and as many others as they can. What a torment it must be to them to lead such aimless lives, studying all the while for some new way to kill time! How many women there are over whose heads time drags heavily! They have nothing to do. The dull round of society is irksome. They have stood at the toilet till every thing there is fatiguing. They have talked over and over their little round of fashionable nonsense. They are weary of their monotonous, inactive, inglorious life. Thousands are the women in easy circumstances who feel thus. They would be glad to lift up their hands and do something, but the chains of custom and fashion are upon them. A false social position has made them timid and fearful. I know that many noble women are weary of such a life. They are tired of being dolls. They would be glad to be women and fill the places of useful, energetic, resolute women.
The position of dependence in which society places its wealthy and easy circumstanced women is directly calculated to destroy their self-reliance and force of character. They are attended by servants wherever they go, who do what they ought to do, and often think what they ought to think. The woman who always asks her servant to do what she may do herself, soon becomes dependent upon and loses a good portion of herself in her servant. If my servant eats my dinner for me, he gets the benefit and I lose it. If my servant takes my morning bath from me, he gets the benefit and I lose it. If he takes my morning walk for me, he receives what I lose. So if he takes my Employment, does what I may and ought to do myself for my own good, he receives the benefit while I lose it. Thus it is that this system of servitude in all its forms tends to degrade the party to whom the service is done. To have done for us what it is best we should do ourselves always injures us. If we have duties to perform, and hire or command another to perform them, we rob ourselves of one of the richest blessings that can come to a mortal being—the consciousness of having performed a duty and the improvement gained by its performance. Thousands of women in our country are greatly injured by the presence of their servants. Servants do for them what they ought to do for themselves. They acquire the habit of dependence, and it soon degenerates them into petty tyrants. If I had but two lessons to impress upon the young women of my generation, the first should be that a useful Employment is the primary means of developing a true womanhood.
I know there is an antipathy to labor among a large class of women; I know that women as well as men seek to avoid care and responsibility; I know that useful Employments are looked upon as hard necessities, to be avoided if possible. But still I know that Employment—daily, constant, responsible Employment—is the stepping-stone to mental and moral worth, to usefulness and happiness. I do not contend for degrading toil, but for honorable, mind-developing, soul-redeeming, heart-adorning Employment. Both men and women are made better by useful Employment. Life is given for Employment; our powers are made for activity. If God had intended that any of us should be idle, he would have built houses, made clothes, cooked victuals, formed characters, accumulated knowledge, and had every thing that we need both for mind and body ready made at our hands. But not so. He has made all that is grand in life, that is glorious in thought, depend upon our own exertions. This is as true of women as of men. Then the idler is a leech on himself—his own despoiler. An idle woman is as base a thing as an idle man. She was made for usefulness. A drone in any hive is a base bee—a nuisance, a leech, a moth.
I know young women have refined ideas of delicacy; sometimes imagine it is vulgar to be useful; that delicate hands are evidences of ladyship. They ought to know that a delicate hand is an evidence of a shallow brain; that a soft hand is an evidence of a soft head. Ladyship and womanhood are two things. A soft hand and a faint heart may make one, but not the other. Womanhood is put on by industry in the pursuit of good. It is made in the field of noble Employment.
I seek to elevate woman. I look to her elevation as the elevation of the race. I see in her powers capable of great actions and a sublime life; but I see no way in which those powers can be developed and that life lived but in active and useful Employment. Woman ought to stand by man's side in all that is great and good in thought and action. The history of every country should have as much to record of woman as of man; but this can never be until woman's field of Employment is extended. She must go out and work. She must do her own business, execute her own intentions, act nobly her part in life wherever she can be the best rewarded for her industry and judgment. I would not make woman unwomanly, but would crown her with all the grace and dignity of true female worth. I look to useful Employment as the best and only means of securing this end. Idleness will not make any woman womanly. Ignorance of business and the world will not. In the pursuit of their own elevation let them learn how to be true to themselves and their duties, and we shall soon have a generation of women such as the world has never seen—of strong, brave, accomplished, and useful women whom history will record as the benefactors of their race.
Maternal Love—Ideas of Future Home Universal—Heaven's Home Perfected—Home the Garden of Virtue—Home Influence Permanent—Home is Woman's World—Place does not constitute Home—Our Homes will be like us—Home a Sensitive Place—Home Habits Second Nature.
My theme is Home. If my essay could be as good as my subject it would be worthy of devoutest attention. I believe that there are three things of universal interest among men—Mother, Home, and Heaven. In all ages and countries mother has been a sacred word. It has laid on the heart of childhood like a dew-drop on the rose, sweetening and refreshing it. A man loves to think of his mother; of her watchful care, her tender vigils, her holy charity, her forgiving goodness, her matchless and marvelous love.
What a great refreshing fountain of life is a mother's love! We all turn to it as the heart's common resting-place. We love to think of our mothers. They loved us with such a deep devotion; did, and sacrificed, and suffered so much for us; were so unselfish and ready to forgive, so vividly alive to our interests, and felt their beings so intertwined with ours that we feel that we must love them. It is the last and lowest ingratitude of a human heart not to love its mother. God made the mother. Such love is Heaven's work. Not in angels' hearts beats a sweeter, deeper, richer feeling. Mother is another name for consecrated love. Not all the theologians in the world could convince me that the natural mother-heart is not holy. I have seen too deeply into my own mother's soul; I have felt too much of the fire of her deathless love; I have witnessed too many evidences of its immaculate purity to believe it inherently depraved. I have always felt that it was a slander against our own mother to believe the mother-heart naturally corrupt. Yes, all the mother is holy. God loves the mother for what she is. She is a reflection of himself. The gates of his everlasting Home will never close against a mother. Though she may be wicked in other respects, in her maternal heart lives a germ of the tree of life which can never wholly die. What love sometimes beams in a wicked mother's heart! All mothers are alike. The wise and the foolish, the idiotic and philosophic, the rich and poor, the cultivated and barbaric, are all the same in love; the same beautiful, tender, forgiving spirit of devoted affection dwells in all. Oh, see the mother as she gazes fondly upon her child; as she feeds him from her breast; as she watches by his sick couch; as she counsels him to virtue and goodness; as she weeps over his waywardness and toils for his happiness!
All the arching glory of the moral world bows in reverence before the mother's love. This is the radiant center, the focus of human affection. And this is the central sun of Home! Home has no permanent force, no abiding stability without a mother's love. Take mother out of Home, and the Home is gone. She is the regulator, the main-spring, the center around which all else revolves. How rich is every Home that has in it a true mother! If there were no other attraction in this sacred spot, no other charm, the mother's presence would make it dear and glorious. While a mother lives, Home will be a blessed place. Then heaven is another word of universal use and power. In every human soul there lies an idea of heaven; dim and shadowy sometimes, bright and glorious at others; but yet everywhere present. The Arab wanderers, the wild men of the forest, the jabbering Ajetas, the South Sea Islanders, the wall-girt Chinamen, the sable Ethiopians, the cultured Christians, all cherish the thought of heaven—another home, a final resting-place from all that wearies or troubles. It seems as though God in goodness had implanted this thought in all creatures' minds as the germ of eternal life, to cheer and support them in the shadowy hours of earth and time. Yes, the thought and hope of heaven is universal. Many men cherish ideas of hell, the very opposite of heaven; but this does not interfere with their own hope of heaven. All men hope for heaven for themselves. Hell is always for somebody else, if they are so unfortunate as to be tormented with so fearful and saddening a thought. And this thought of heaven, this universal impression of a better land, a spirit-bower, so comforting, so elevating, so inspiring, grows naturally out of our primary conceptions of Home. We all love Home—Home that is a Home—and this love enlarged by the imagination, pictured in perfection by the quick hand of Faith, consecrated by natural religion, is our idea of heaven. Heaven is Home perfected, the consummation of the heart's love of Home. In our ideas of heaven we gather our loved ones about us just as we do in our Homes. What would heaven be to us without our mother, our brothers and sisters, the dear home-companions of our hearts? It would not be heaven because it would not be Home. The heart could not rest there. It would fly away on the quick wings of its love to the dear absent ones. A heaven half filled would not be a heaven. A heaven with broken families would be heaven with broken hearts.
Every heart would pine in sadness in the loss of some of its dear ones—some of its Home souls. Home-love is the germ of heaven-love. God plants in Homes the seeds that shall bear fruit in heaven. Thus we see that Mother, Home, and Heaven—these three words of such universal interest and power—are associated and related words. They convey a blessed trinity of ideas meeting in one associated glow of spiritual beauty. They belong together and can not be separated. They are parts of the same golden whole. Home, in all well-constituted minds, is always associated with moral and social excellence. The higher men rise in the scale of being, the more important and interesting is Home. The Arab or forest man may care little for his Home, but, the Christian man of cultured heart and developed mind will love his Home, and generally love it in proportion to his moral worth. He knows it is the planting-ground of every seed of morality—the garden of virtue, and the nursery of religion. He knows that souls immortal are here trained for the skies; that private worth and public character are made in its sacred retreat. To love Home with a deep and abiding interest, with a view to its elevating influence, is to love truth and right, heaven and God. I envy not the soul that loves not Home. There is moral safety and force in this love. Many a man who is an ornament to his family and a blessing to the world would have gone to ruin had it not been for the love he bore his Home and its inmates. A weakness of the home-love is often the cause of moral ruin. Many a man of strong impulses and impetuous character has braved hardships, faced dangers, resisted temptations which would have been too powerful for him had it not been for his strong love of Home. A strong love of Home in any man's heart is a triple wall of brass around his moral nature—an impregnable bulwark against the assaults of moral evil. No labor is too great for the strong lovers of Home to accomplish. See them on ocean's billowy bosom; on mountains of ice and snow; on fields of bloody strife; on burning deserts; in trackless forests; amid disease, danger, and death, braving every foe to life and peace, and all to fill their homes with comfort and joy. In every proper sense in which Home can be considered, it is a powerful stimulant to noble action and a high and pure morality. So valuable is the love of Home, that every man should cherish it as the apple of his eye. As he values his own moral worth, as he prizes his country, the peace and happiness of the world; yea, more: as he values the immortal interests of men, he should cherish and cultivate a strong and abiding love of Home.
I take it that it affects our whole lives; ay, that it runs over the grave, sweeps by death, and affects our future condition. Then is not the idea of Home important? Shall we look thoughtlessly upon these nurseries of immortal fruits? Shall we pollute and degrade the Homes in which we dwell? Shall we send out from them unholy influences to corrupt the world? These Home questions are the most important ones we can raise. Their decision is to affect us more than any decision by the supreme authority of our country. Not all the judges in the world ever decide questions half so important and pregnant with solemn results as those we are left to decide in our own Homes. Hence I would present the subject of Home to young women as one in which they are as deeply interested as they can be in any subject. It is expected that every young woman will preside over the destinies and interests of a Home. In some way her interests, through her whole earth-life, will be connected with Home. Woman's nature and tastes fit her in a peculiar manner to be the presiding genius of Home. However widely may be extended the rightful sphere of woman's operations, the mass of women will find employment and usefulness in the embossmment of their families.
Home will always be woman's world. She will be queen over its rich and far-stretching realms. In the studios of Home she will carve the statuary of her moral heroism, and picture the spiritual beauty of her faith and love. Home is her kingdom, and she will always reign over it. Though she may go out to do great deeds of goodness in the world, though she may speak from forums, teach from college chairs, write books, fill offices of trust and profit, go on missions of truth, peace, and mercy among her fellows, she will still love best of all places the sequestered scene of Home. I would not, either by law, or custom, or public opinion, confine woman's powers to the routine of domestic duties. I would open the whole world to her, and tell her to find employment, usefulness, and happiness wherever she can; but in so doing I should feel that not a Home would be desolated; not a woman would become less a lover and blesser of Home. On the contrary, woman would love her Home all the more, and make it all the purer and nobler. She would choose its sweet vocations, not from the stern dictation of society, but from her soul's choice. Every family must have a Home; and every Home must have a head, a heart, a guardian. Woman is nobly fitted to fill this responsible post of honor and trust; but let her do it from choice. Do not compel her to do it. Woman does not like compulsion. It is not human to like compulsion. Give to woman the same freedom you do to man. Open the whole width of the field of life to her, and she will choose with avidity her own appropriate place. She has a strong sense of propriety and a good judgment in the choice of her sphere of activity.
Every young woman should early form in her mind an ideal of a true Home. It should not be the ideal of a place, but of the character of Home. Place does not constitute Home. Many a gilded palace and sea of luxury is not a Home. Many a flower-girt dwelling and splendid scansion lacks all the essentials of Home. A hovel is often more a Home than a palace. If the spirit of the congenial friendship link not the hearts of the inmates of a dwelling it is not a Home. If love reign not there; if charity spread not her downy mantle over all; if peace prevail not; if contentment be not a meek and merry dweller therein; if virtue rear not her beautiful children, and religion come not in her white robe of gentleness to lay her hand in benediction on every head, the Home is not complete. We are all in the habit of building for ourselves ideal homes. But they are generally made up of outward things—a house, a garden, a carriage, and the ornaments and appendages of luxury. And if in our lives we do not realize our ideals, we make ourselves miserable and our friends miserable. Half the women in our country are unhappy because their Homes are not so luxurious as they wish.
Somebody has more ornament and style about their Homes than they, and so they worry their souls to death about it. This is one of the most fruitful sources of disquiet in nearly all our Homes. Our women want more show, fashion, luxury, outward ornament than they can afford, or than is necessary to their happiness. All around us there is a great sea of disquiet from this one cause. We forget that Homes are not made up of material things. It is not a fine house, rich furniture, a luxurious table, a flowery garden, and a superb carriage that make a Home. A world-wide distance from this is a true Home. Our ideal Homes should be heart-homes, in which virtues live, and love-flowers bloom, and peace offerings are daily brought to its altar. Our ideal Homes should be such as we can and will make in our own lives. We should not expect Homes better and happier than we are. Our Homes will be sure to be much like us. If we are good, kind, and happy, our Homes will be likely to be. If we are craving, selfish, discontented, our Homes will be. If all the wealth in the world were laid at our feet and lavished on our Homes, we should not be happier unless our hearts are better. Wealth, luxury, ornament bring care, anxiety, and a craving for more, which render them nearly valueless unless the heart is filled with virtue and contentment. If I could moderate the material desires of the young women I address, and elevate their spiritual longings in relation to their future Homes, I should do a good service to them and their families. The grand idea of Home is a quiet, secluded spot, where loving hearts dwell, set apart and dedicated to improvement—to intellectual and moral improvement. It is not a formal school of staid solemnity and rigid discipline, where virtue is made a task and progress a sharp necessity, but a free and easy exercise of all our spiritual limbs, in which obedience is a pleasure, discipline a joy, improvement a self-wrought delight. All the duties and labors of Home, when rightly understood, are so many means of improvement. Even the trials of Home (for every Home must have its trials, and severe ones, too) are so many rounds in the ladder of spiritual progress, if we but make them so.
One idea concerning Home should be deeply impressed on our minds. Of all places in the world, Home is the most delicate and sensitive. Its springs of action are subtle and secret. Its chords move with a breath. Its fires are kindled with a spark. Its flowers are bruised with the least rudeness. The influence of our homes strikes so directly on our hearts that they make sharp impressions. In our intercourse with the world we are barricaded, and the arrows let fly at our hearts are warded off; but not so with us at Home. Here our hearts wear no covering, no armor. Every arrow strikes them; every cold wind blows full upon them; every storm beats against them. What in the world we would pass by in sport, in our Homes will wound us to the quick. Very little can we bear at Home. Home is a sensitive place. If we would have it a true Home, we must guard well our words and actions. We must be honest and kind, constant and true, to the very extent of our capacity. All little occasions of offense and misapprehension should be avoided. Little things make up the web of our life at Home. Little things make us happy, and little things make us miserable. A word, a hint, a look has power to transport us with joy or sting us with anguish. If we would make our Homes what they should be, we must attend faithfully to the little things which make them so.
Our life abroad is but a reflex of what it is at Home. We make ourselves in a great manner at Home. This is especially true of woman. The woman who is rude, coarse, and vulgar at home, can not be expected to be amiable, chaste, and refined in the world. Her Home habits will stick to her. She can not shake them off. They are woven into the web of her life. Her Home language will be first on her tongue. Her Home by-words will come out to mortify her just when she wants most to hide them in her heart. Her Home vulgarities will show their hideous forms to shock her most when she wants to appear her best. Her Home coarseness will appear most when she is in the most refined circles, and appearing there will abash her more than elsewhere. All her Home habits will follow her. They have become a sort of second nature to her.
Every young woman should feel that just what she is at Home she will appear abroad. If she attempts to appear otherwise, everybody will soon see through the attempt. We can not cheat the world long about our real characters. The thickest and most opaque mask we can put on will soon become transparent. This fact we should believe without a doubt. Deception most often deceives itself. The deceiver is the most deceived. The liar is often the only one cheated. The young woman who pretends to what she is not, believes her pretense is not understood. Other people laugh in their sleeves at her foolish pretension. If young women were what they ought to be at Home, they would never have to put on a mask when they go into company. How uncomfortable it must be to have to cover up the Home character the moment we appear in the world! Nothing should be said or done at Home that would make us appear in a bad light in the world. If this one rule is constantly kept, how pleasant will be our Homes, how proper our habits, how beautiful our lives! How easy and graceful will become our Home manners, how elegant and appropriate our Home language, how pure and lovely our Home characters! Home excellences are the ones we should covet. Home morality and religion are the best. Home love and worth only are real and lasting. Home virtue is for the skies. A Home woman of worth is the most beautiful and lovely woman in the world. A Home character is the one that will stand the scrutiny of the All-Seeing Eye. If these were the last words I had to say to young women, I would say, Be at Home what you would be abroad; what you ought to be everywhere; what all good people would have you; what God requires you to be.
THE RELATIONS AND DUTIES OF YOUNG WOMEN TO YOUNG MEN.
The Primary Principles of Being—Life is full of Solemnities—Influence of the Sexes—Influence depends on Culture—Men Reverence Female Worth—Much Influence is directly Evil—Woman should demand Morality—Errors of Society—The Sexes too much Separated—Equality of Moral Standards—Female Encouragement and Counsel—Time Trifled, worse than Lost.
I feel that we have a subject before us of solemn and weighty importance. It relates to some of the dearest interests of our earth-life, gathers within itself some of the holiest affections of our hearts, and places before the bars of our consciences some of the most serious questions of practical morality and religion. Man and woman are a related pair. God has made them so. The relation they bear to each other is a divine one. It takes hold of the heart of life. It spans our whole manhood. It enters into our hopes, aims, and prospects. It holds its scepter over our business, our amusements, our philosophy, and religion. Its sphere is larger than we at first imagine. The relation is deeper and broader than we have yet comprehended. It lies in the very being of every man and every woman. There is in humanity two grand primary and universal principles of being—the masculine and feminine. They bear such a relation to each other that the one is essential to the action of the other. They mutually electrify and empower each other. It is in this mysterious relation that Infinite Wisdom has laid the springs of animate being. If any one mystery of our existence is deeper than any other, it is that which lies in the solemn depths of this relation. We ought to approach it wrapt in reverential awe and wonder. We look out on the earth in its brilliant beauty and teeming activity, and up to the heavens in their gorgeous glory and magnificent movements, and are oppressed with profound astonishment at what we behold. Yet all this we can in a measure comprehend. At least the secondary causes of the physical universe are clear to our minds. We can measure them with the line of mathematics; we can weigh them in the balance of reason. But when we turn in upon ourselves we meet a universe ten thousand times more wonderful and glorious, yet wrapt in the deep mystery of spiritual being. It is practical irreverence not to look upon our relations with religious respect. Of all these relations, the one between man and woman takes the most direct held of our practical life and enters most largely into the details of our purposes and thoughts. Men and women live in and for each other more than for any thing else. The fact stands out on the face of human society. We must take the fact as we find it. We did not make human nature; hence we have no right to complain of it. Our business is to comprehend it so far as possible and seek to keep it in the path of its design and destiny. Our morality and religion should be adapted to our nature. They should meet the every-day wants of men.
The philosopher, the moralist, and the minister should aim at practical utility in all their labors, and men and women should study carefully the great book of every-day life. The relation of men and women to each other is one of the most important lessons in that book. If we would be wise, useful, or happy, we must understand at least the duties growing out of this relation. If we would bless mankind or please God, we must fulfill these duties. I have but little faith in any philosophy or religion that would shun the walks of practical life. We have too much ethereal philosophy and spasmodic religion. Men reason profoundly about etherealities, and go into ecstasies about glory and joy to come. This may be all well enough, but I submit whether it would not be better to reason how to live well the life that now is, and how to sanctify it with the redeeming presence of the spirit of the lowly Jesus. Our chief concern is with this life. If we make it right, no harm can come to us in the future life. To me our present life is full of holy solemnities. Its most interesting relations are holy, and the duties that grow out of them are to be performed with religious sincerity and joy. To me God is in our present life, walking with us daily and entreating us to walk with him. I see His arrangement in the relation of man and woman. I feel his benediction in the joy and blessed influence that arise from this relation. I can not consider it or enjoy it in any other than a religious sense. Nor can I conceive of any true religion in the heart of him who practically sinks this relation to a level with sensualism or folly. I hear almost daily from the lips of professedly religious men and women, language and thoughts on this subject which bespeak a carnal heart and an unsanctified mind. They treat the relation with levity. They make it a practical joke. They look at it through carnal eyes, and listen to its language with carnal ears. Their whole conception and practical understanding of it is sensuous. I have but little confidence in their religion. It is only an emotion of the heart. It has never sanctified the conscience nor consecrated the life.
With these introductory remarks let us observe in the first place, that the most potent influence that bears on our earth-life grows out of this relation. This is a fact standing out boldly on the face of life. And this influence is more powerful in refined and cultured life than in savage and primitive existence. As individuals, nations, and races advance in the arts, principles, and culture of civilization, the influence of the sexes becomes more general and irresistible. So far as a people advance morally, religiously, and spiritually, this influence becomes more direct, constant, and powerful. The truest men and the truest women we have are most under each other's influence. They bow most reverently in each other's presence and entertain the highest opinions of each other. Their feelings toward each other are most pure and truthful. One of the most intellectual, religious, and refined women that it has been my privilege to meet in life's sequestered vale, while speaking in a private conversation, made this significant remark: "Next to my God do I adore man, for he is God's best image." She was a matronly woman about sixty years of age, who had tasted life's full cup and been blessed by its richest and most profound experiences, and who said of her religion: "For twenty-five years it has been my meat and my drink." It is a joy and a blessing never to be forgotten to have known such a woman. The best men I have ever known, considered both in relation to their spiritual experiences and their influence in life, have joyfully and reverently expressed their feelings of profound respect and sacred affection for woman, confessing that, under God, she had wrought in them a mission of redeeming love. So frequent have been similar expressions both from men and women in the highest spiritual and practical walks in life, and so clear and strong has been their experience, that it can not be doubted that the influence of man and woman upon each other is potent and penetrating in proportion to their degree of refinement and spiritual culture. The tendency of moral training and religious discipline are to strengthen and elevate this influence.
Woman improves in man's view as her nature is cultivated and her soul blessed with sanctifying influences. Man grows in woman's sight as his mind is developed and his heart subdued. They mutually exert a higher and deeper influence over each other by their progress in things good and true. If I am correct in this, it presents us with a strong inducement to develop our best powers and live our best lives, that our mental joys may be most deep and holy and our lives most pure and happy. And here I may present the subject directly to young women. If they would secure the deepest respect and holiest friendship of the young men with whom they associate, they must themselves be refined, elevated, and noble in their characters and lives. If they would exert their best influence upon young men, and benefit them most by their association with them, they must be truthful and high of soul.
All young men bow before female worth. Their evil thoughts forsake them; their wicked habits flee away from them for the time being. Let a depraved man feel that he stands in the presence of pure, cultivated womanhood, around which is wrapped the mantle of Jesus, and through which breathes the spirit of his holy religion, and he will be ashamed of himself, and long to be sufficiently pure and elevated to commune in sacred friendship with her spirit. Oh, if young women could only realize the moral powers which they could gather up within themselves, and wield over their male associates in all the walks of life, by a proper development of their minds and hearts, and a truthful submission to the principles of moral right, how different would they be, and how changed would be the face of young society! That young women do wield a mighty influence over young men we admit; but it is not so great nor so good as it should be. Much of it is directly evil. It is trifling, deceitful, volatile, changeable, and not unfrequently carnal. It is often low, worldly, irreverent, base. I am sorry to say it, but young women rebuke but very little the evil doings of their male associates. They chide not the waywardness of young men as they ought. They smile upon them in their villainy. They court the society of young men they have every reason to believe are corrupt. They will meet without a shudder or disapproving frown, in the ball-room and the private circle, men whom they know would glory in being the instrument of the moral ruin of any woman. Young women who claim to be good, and who would not for a fortune be guilty of a moral impropriety, often wreathe the villain's way in smiles.
Young men in "high life" can smoke and chew, drink and swear, in woman's presence, and she turns not away in disgust nor rebukes them with a cut of their acquaintance. There are a large class of young women who only ask that the young men shall behave tolerably well in their presence, asking not what they do behind their backs. They may carouse, blaspheme, get drunk, and do what wickedness they please among themselves; if they only keep straight in the ladies' presence, it is all that is asked. Now there is by far too much of this low state of morality among young women. I say among young women, because if their moral feelings were what they should be, they would not associate with such young men. They would not enroll them on their list of friends. They would not know their names; would not recognize them when they met. I have no confidence in the moral sense of young women who will acknowledge such associates. The very first duty which women owe to young men is to demand of them a higher standard of morality. I say demand. They should peremptorily demand it. Young women should erect the standard for young men which young men have erected for them. Young men who have any respect for themselves will not associate with women that chew, and smoke, and swear, and get drunk—those whose morals are low and base. They spurn such associates from them. Let young women do the same. Let them say to the young men, "You shall not do the things you prohibit us from doing; you shall not, behind our backs, do things you would despise us for doing; you shall not bring into our society characters from which you know every honest and pure woman ought to recoil as she would from a basilisk; you shall not breathe into our faces the pestiferous breath of the drunkard, nor burden our ears with the hateful sound of the blasphemer; you must be what you would have us, or you must be out of our society." Let young women talk thus and act thus, and true young men will respect them all the more. No woman is respected more for smiling on the villain. He himself despises her for it. The truth is, our society is corrupt on this subject. Men are permitted to do with impunity what would blast a woman's reputation for life. A man may be coarse, vulgar, and wicked, and society admits him to all its privileges, and good women will meet him on terms of equality. Society can never be what it should be till the same standard of morality and propriety is established for men and women. It is woman's duty to establish such a standard—a duty she owes to man. She does man an act of injustice when she accepts him as an associate at the sacrifice of her moral dignity. It is her duty to rebuke his evil course. It is kindness to him to do it.
Young women can not do a bad man a greater evil than to associate with him on terms of moral equality. All young women should show by their words and actions that they have a deep and holy respect for moral worth; that they will demand it in their associates. Such a course would inspire a greater respect for them in the minds of young men, and give a higher tone to the moral feelings of our youth.
It is a well-settled conviction of my mind that society separates too much its male and female youth. In our schools our boys and girls are separated. Almost the entire course of education is pursued in sexual isolation. The girls are taught that it is not pretty to be with the boys, and the boys that is not manly to be with the girls; and yet both are anxious for each other's society. In this unnatural and unhappy state, their imaginations are left to fill up the void made by the separation. Imagination seldom does such work well. I believe it is the grand corrupter of youth. The brother and sister should grow up together in the same family, be educated at the same school, engage in the same sports, and, so far as practical, in the same labors. Their joys and sorrows, tastes and aims, should be mutual so far as possible. The same moral lessons, the same moral obligations and duties should bear upon them. The moral standard for the girl should be the moral standard for the boy, and he should be made to feel that the moment he falls below it he is unworthy, and must not expect her confidence and society. It is a sad error that the youth of our towns and country are separated in so many of the most important duties of life. They are permitted to come together only for sport and nonsense. Their study and work are separate. Hence the good influence which they ought to have upon each other is in a great measure lost. They are unacquainted with each other. They know not each other's natures. They have but little interest in each other's business and duties. They meet only to cajole and deceive each other. They wear masks in each other's presence. For this state of things no one in particular is to blame, but every one in general. It is the fault of society. Now it seems to me to be a duty of every young woman to seek to correct this state of things, by acquainting herself as far as possible with the interests and business of young men that she may seek to benefit them by her approval of what is right and condemnation of what is wrong.
If woman was more intimately acquainted with the life, duty, hopes, and aims of man, with his business, his education, his sharp encounters, his trials and temptations, she could be of much more service to him intellectually, morally, and socially. I do not believe in the present isolation of woman from man's business, ambition, and hope. Woman might be a perpetual inspiration to man to act nobly his part in the theater of life if she knew that part and was more deeply interested in it. And here is just where young women can be of great service to young men. In nearly all young men there is more or less of noble ambition, of praiseworthy aim for an active and useful life. Some wish to fill posts of honor and trust in their country's service; some would win respect and honor in some of the learned professions; some would seek esteem and competency in the schools of art; some would lay the foundations of a noble life in mechanism; some in agriculture; some in commerce. The avocations are many, but the spirit, the aim, the ambition is one. In these avocations young men expect to make their fortunes, win their fame, work out their good, and do their life-work. If young women had their hearts in these things, saw the true end of life, and would enter into the young man's plans and hopes, they might cheer and animate, encourage and empower, thousands of young men who otherwise will make grand failures of life. How little encouragement, how little counsel and cheer do young men now get from their young female associates! What young woman enters heartily into the best aims and highest hopes of the young man with whom she associates?
What young woman watches with anxious and benevolent solicitude the young men about her, in relation to their success and progress in the vocations and pursuits to which their lives are wedded, and from which their fortunes, characters, and spiritual good are in no small degree to be made? Our young women are too childish and trifling in their thoughts and intercourse with young men. They seek to dissipate rather than benefit them; or, if they do not seek it, their intercourse tends to dissipation. It should not be so. All of woman's influence should tend to elevate man. He is bad enough, do all she can for him. The hours she spends with him should be for his inspiration; to make him more active in the pursuit of whatever is noble in life or good in spirit.
Every hour trifled away with young men is an hour worse than lost. It injures both parties. Woman exerts a great influence over man. She should see to it that that influence is good. She should encourage him in all his intellectual pursuits, throw the whole weight of her influence upon his moral nature, resolutely demand a good life at his hands, and electrify his laudable purposes with the strength of her holiest prayer. She may be to him an angel of redeeming mercy. She may magnetize his soul with strength. She may gird him with the armor of religion and make him a soldier of the Cross, braver than Caesar and mightier than Napoleon. But to do it she must herself be strong in the right. She must be panoplied in the armor of spiritual warfare. She must be a true woman, girded and crowned with the royalty of noble womanhood. Being this, she must ask her brother to wear the royal badge of high-toned manhood. Let young women learn how men are made; how, by industry, labor, prudence, perseverance in the common vocations of life, and by a strict adherence to rectitude and goodness they grow to be useful and great, and then they may become ministers of good to the rising manhood of our country.
I have great hopes in young woman. The destinies of the generations to come are not a little in her hands. In the stirring times that are before us she must act a noble part. Her pen, her voice, her power will move upon the world. Every young woman will do something in this movement. Let her determine to do her part well; to be a true woman; to lead a true life; to exert a true influence on mankind in the fear of God and the love of man.
Unhappy Marriages—Marriage has its Laws—The Second Question in Life—Be sure you are Right—For Better or for Worse—Know whom thou Marriest—Marriage a Holy Institution—Marriage should be made a Study—Marriage is not for Children—Early Marriages Inadvisable—What are Early Marriages?—Influence of an Ignorant Wife—Woman the Hope of the World—Married Life must be lived well—Love should rule all.
Our present theme for our young female friends is Marriage. In treating it we feel impressed with its solemn and practical importance. Talk of Marriage as we will, it is a serious and stern reality. It takes us by the hand and leads us into the great temple of life where duties stand ministering around the solemn altar, and the baptism of love is followed by the quick discipline of trial. Young, single existence is but the vestibule of real life, where anticipation weaves a golden web, bearing but a faint resemblance to the web of actual life. The youthful imagination is apt to dress the institution of Marriage in too many garlands, and to consider it full of ethereal joys and paradisaical blessedness such as can exist only in the chambers of an untaught fancy. That the natural fruitage of true Marriage is peace and blessedness is a pleasing fact which we can not contemplate but with delight, and for which we can not be too grateful. But it must always be understood that the joys of marriage are natural, and such as grow out of the performance of duty and a life of truthfulness. They are conditioned upon obedience to the matrimonial laws. It is not all the married that are happy. If you would find misery double-distilled, you may find it in awful and ruinous abundance among the married who entered their real life in the whirl of enthusiastic delight. There is every possible degree of anguish in the married life, from the unbreathed unrest of the thinly clouded soul to the terrible grief that breaks out in loud denunciations and open and disgusting conflict. And could you draw back the vail that hides the privacies of this life, and see the black waves of distrust and the deep waters of disquietude that cast up mire and dirt continually, which roll and heave in constant commotion out of the world's sight in the seclusion of the Marriage relation, you might doubt that the institution was ordained in mercy, and question its utility. Like every other good, it must be rightly used or it turns to evil. The good of good things is mostly in their use. Life is good if rightly used, but oh, how bad when wholly abused! So with Marriage. The best things become instruments of the direst evil when wrested from their true use.
The first lesson to learn in relation to Marriage is, that its fruits of peace and joy hang on the boughs of obedience to its regulations, conformity to its laws. Who would be happy in the married life must enter into it well and live it righteously. It has laws to be obeyed, regulations to be observed, principles to be submitted to, without which it has no joys, no elysian fields of bliss and blessedness, no buds and flowers of virtue and happiness.
It will never do to go blindly into a state of such intimate relations. Here soul meets with soul face to face. Propensities, passions, desires, inclinations, aspirations, capacities, powers, stand up side by side and press against each other, either to please or fret and chafe each other. Tastes, dispositions, feelings, either join in sweet, according friendship, or rankle in disagreeable contact. Marriage is a union, intimate, strong-bound, and vitally active. The union is a compound or a mixture; it is natural, congenial, pleasing, or it is forced, inharmonious, and revolting. Which it shall be we are to determine before we enter it. We are not to shut our eyes to reason and common sense, and marry whoever offers. Young women who do so may live to repent it. If there is any period in a woman's whole life when her sharpest eye, her keenest apprehension, her soundest judgment, and her most religious seriousness are needed, it is when she proposes to herself the question, "Shall I accept in marriage the hand that is offered me?" It is the second greatest question of her life. It is the question, the answer of which is to wring briny tears out of her heart or baptize it in the waters of refreshing sympathy.
I once knew a merchant who used to say that "Goods well bought were half sold." The idea is equally good when applied to the subject of Marriage. A Marriage well entered is a life half lived. It is hard to make a profit on badly bought goods. So it is hard to live a good and happy life in Marriage bonds that bind and gall the heart that wears them. I used to be a farmer, and I then learned that a balky horse would often work well in an easy harness, while a good horse would be tricky and stubborn in a collar that chafed. So I have often seen bad people who lived very happily in the married life, so far as their personal relations were concerned, while good people chafed and grieved in sad matrimonial inharmony. Half the victory is in starting the battle right. A man of more good sense than refinement once said, "Be sure you are right, then go ahead." It is the utterance of wisdom, and is as applicable to the subject before us as any other. "Be sure you are right." We are not only to be right, but we are to know it. There is to be no guess-work about it—no wish-work or hope-work about it. It is to be knowledge-work. Applied to the subject in hand, young women are to know that they are right in their Marriage alliances; are to know that they have bargained with men after their own heart. They are not to guess they are going to get pretty good husbands, nor hope they are, nor to believe they are from what personal friends have said.
They are not to rely upon common report, nor the opinion of friends, nor a fashionable acquaintance, but upon a personal knowledge of the individual's life and character. How can another know what you want in a companion? You alone know your own heart. If you do not know it you are not fit to be married. No one else can tell what fills you with pleasing and grateful emotions. You only know when the spring of true affection is touched by the hand of a congenial spirit. It is for you to know who asks your hand, who has your heart, who links his life with yours. If you know the man who can make true answer to your soul's true love, whose soul is all kindred with yours, whose life answers to your ideal of manly demeanor, you know who would make you a good husband. But if you only fancy that he is right, or guess, or believe, or hope, from a little social interchange of words and looks, you have but a poor foundation on which to build hopes of future happiness. A young man and a dear friend once said to me, "I am going to take her for better or for worse." The remark ran over me like a chill breath of winter. I shuddered at the thought. "For better or for worse." All in doubt. Going to marry, yet not sure he was right. The lady he spoke of was a noble young woman, intellectual, cultivated, pious, accustomed to his sphere of life. They were going to marry in uncertainty. Both were of fine families; both excellent young people. To the world it looked like a desirable match. To them it was going to be "for better or for worse." They married. The woman stayed in his home one year and left it, declaring he was a good man and a faultless husband, but not after her heart. She stayed away one year and came back; lived with him one year more and died. Sad tale. It proved for the worse, and all because they did not know each other; if they had they would not have married. I once heard of a woman who married a man to get rid of him. It is a dangerous riddance. Equally dangerous is it to marry a man to find him out. "Know whom thou marriest," is the voice of wisdom. Yes, the question of Marriage is one of solemn import. It is a life-question. It is a final settlement of a great demand of our nature. It is the decision of the heart's earthly weal or woe. It is our social life or death. It is planting the seeds for the moral harvest of life. It is the adjustment of a great religious question, the submission to a solemn ordinance of God. Yes, Marriage is a divine institution. It is not of earthly origin, though it is often prostituted to earthly uses. It is a God-made arrangement for human development and happiness, and woe be to him who defiles it with sensuous abuses. It is before the Church, before any of the solemn ordinances of God's house, the primal decree of the Father for his human children. To degrade or abuse the Marriage covenant is blasphemy, irreverence, sacrilegious wickedness. If one would enter the portals of the church bowed in reverence to God, much more should he thus enter the sanctuary of Marriage. If he should sit reverently at the table of the Lord's Supper, much more should he sit thus in the bower of the hymeneal life. If he should bow his head in solemn meekness in the baptismal rite, much more should he bend lowly in this relation. If he should kneel in pious prayer before the throne of grace, so he should humble himself before God at the life-union altar. There is no more serious step in life, none more important, and none that should be more religiously taken.
In this view of the subject, what a sad picture does the world present! How trifling, giddy, thoughtless! Among the multitudes who marry, how few marry in the light of wisdom and under the sanction of religion! Worldliness moves a great multitude in the formation of this union. Profit, gain, standing! These are mighty things. Principle, virtue, religion, happiness, must be sacrificed on the altar of worldly ambition. Woman becomes a base creature by thus pandering to earthly ends. Then worse than this, still greater multitudes are prompted to this union by sensuous desires—base animalism. Oh, to what a sink of iniquity, what a pool of pollution, what a stagnant pit of moral rottenness is the Marriage relation sunk by the unhallowed and unbridled sensuality of thousands who enter it! If there is any place in the world where the voice of God should be heard ringing in pealing thunder-tones the commands of virtue and religion, it is in the seclusion of the Marriage relation. Men, and women, too, ought to look to Marriage with a profounder respect and a higher purpose. It is a holy institution. To degrade it is wicked and brings the most bitter unhappiness. If I should induce a single young woman to look more reverently upon the life-union, to regard it in its moral and religious aspects, and determine to enter it under the sanctions of true religion, and demand a like state of mind in her companion, that they might live to be blessings to each other, I should feel richly remunerated for my labor. I treat this subject now and have at former times with a view to elevate the minds of youth in relation to it.
It is in vain to try to make the world moral and religious while the great institutions of social life are corrupted and corrupting. At the very bottom of adult life lies the institution of Marriage. To reform the world we must begin with this. If we can get men and women well married, the work of reform is half done; life is half lived. It is next to impossible to make good and happy an ill-assorted pair. They work against each other almost in spite of themselves. They are like a steamboat with its wheels playing in opposite directions. They make a great noise and a terrible jarring, and put forth desperate efforts, but no forward motion is produced.
It would be well if we had more judicious books on Marriage, designed for youth. One on the Philosophy of Marriage; one on the Duties of Marriage; one on the Religion of Marriage; or all these subjects treated in one book might be very profitable; and if such a book were designed for high schools, academies, and colleges, and made a study, as is moral science and natural religion, it might be made eminently useful. There is a science of Marriage. It should be developed and made a study. Some strong mind and pure heart, baptized in the spirit of divine truth and love, should write it out. I know the youth of our country would receive it gladly and study it with great profit. What is most wanted is thought and enlightenment on the subject. Thought is the grand lever of reform. This thing of thinking is what makes men great and good. It is the grand plowshare that turns up the old soil of error and despotism and reveals the hidden treasures of truth. Get people to thinking and they will be likely to think themselves right in the end. We want thought on the subject of Marriage—calm, consecutive, serious thought. Nothing else will do. We have passion, zeal, impulse, imagination; but we lack thought. Thought is the helm of passion, the ballast of imagination, the compass of impulse. Let youth think on the subject as they ought, and they will marry well.
I remarked that the institution of Marriage was at the bottom of adult life. This is a truth, and it is a thought for the girls. Marriage was never designed for children. It is for men and women. It is good for men and women; but it does not follow from this that it is good for children. It would not be good even if children knew how to marry wisely. They are both physically and mentally incapacitated for so solemn and important a relation. They are immature in body and mind, in heart and head. Their judgments are unsound. Their affections are not to be trusted. They are children in every sense of the word, and can only make children's work of married life. The wisest and best in early adult life can be none too well prepared for the great duties of married life—how can children be prepared? It is impossible. One of the greatest evils of our time is the too prevalent custom of entering early into the Marriage relations. Children make bad selections of companions. In nine cases out of ten they choose differently from what they would a few years later. They have no fixed characters. They do not know what their opinions will be. Their tastes are not formed. Their aims in life are undetermined. What they were made for and what they live for they have scarcely asked. The arguments against early Marriages are many. I have not time to enumerate them or to show their force. I have never heard of but one argument in favor of early marriages. That is founded in the false idea of marrying in mutual ignorance of each other. It is said the characters of the parties are more pliable in early youth, so that they will assimilate to each other the more readily. But if they are not already assimilated they ought not to marry. If each has got to give up his character to live in peace, it is a proof that they are wrongly matched. Those really fitted for each other find their happiness in the harmony of each other's characters. Their two characters blend together like concordant sounds, or two streams of running water. The secret of true Marriage is in mutuality of character, harmony of sentiment and action, congeniality of spirit. Without this unity there can be no true Marriage; no real happiness or utility in the married life.
In all true Marriages the twain become one; one in feeling, aim, and spirit, one in reason, sentiment, and love. And when this does not exist before Marriage, it can not reasonably be looked for after. That this harmony shall be perfect we can not expect, because there are no perfect characters in this world, and no two persons at perfect unity in spirit. But unless there is a general harmony there should be no Marriage. Now, how can children know whether this harmony exists, when their own characters are unformed, their powers undeveloped? But it may be asked, what we call an early Marriage? About this there may be a difference of opinion. What some would call early, others would call late. Our ideas on this point should be founded in physiological and mental science. There is a true test by which to settle this question. That test is found in the human constitution. Any Marriage is early that is consummated before adult womanhood is attained—womanhood of mind, heart, soul, and character. Any Marriage before eighteen years of age is a very early Marriage; before twenty it is early. As a general rule, between twenty and twenty-five it is timely, though with many it is early at twenty-two, and some never get old enough to marry. A mind untaught, a heart undisciplined, a spirit unsubdued, in a civilized community, is not fit to be married. Such a character is never old enough.
Above all things, before Marriage, there should be time enough for a generous education; for a wise preparation for practical life. No young woman can be educated in any practical and general sense before twenty-two, no matter what may be her opportunities. Life ought to be understood; its practical aspects should be fairly and wisely contemplated; its principal duties should be well weighed; its trials, temptations, and besetments should be considered; all that must be done and borne should be the subject of thoughtful meditation before a woman should dare to set her foot upon the hallowed ground of matrimony. No child is capable of considering such grave subjects. An adult mind is scarcely equal to the task. When I say young women should have time to be educated, I mean all young women. It is true, all will not be educated in our schools, but all must have some sort of an education; they must have some experience, observation, contact with men and things, a knowledge of life; must learn to rely upon themselves, and learn moral duty and what the world expects of a wife. The early married must also necessarily be married in ignorance; and as a general rule we may say, who marries in ignorance will remain in ignorance. An ignorant wife! Poor thing! How sad the spectacle! What can she do with life? She will make an ignorant mother and rear ignorant children, and exert an ignorant influence all through her life. She will perpetuate the absurdities of ignorant people. She will do the work of ignorance with her husband and family. Still worse is a neighborhood of ignorant wives. A State of ignorant wives would bring barbarism again. And how could it be otherwise, if all girls should marry in their girlhood? It is the girls that live to womanhood before they marry that redeem and polish society. Those who marry in girlhood are drawbacks on society. They are dead weights holding back the wheels of progress. There are but few truly educated and influential women in the country who married before they were twenty-five—many of them not till after. They are now the pride and glory of their husbands, of the communities and States in which they live. I hold that a noble and influential woman is an honor to the country and a pillar of civil and religious liberty. Every such woman is a central sun radiating intellectual and moral light, diffusing strength and life to all about her. The hope of the country—ay, of the world—is in its women; I may say its wives. Now and then a wife will develop and educate herself after she is married, if she is fortunate enough to get a husband who will encourage and help her in the work, even if she is married young; but the great mass will remain in statu quo. If they marry ignorant they will remain ignorant. I can not press too strongly this point of preparation for Marriage.
There is more depends upon it than we at first imagine. Every wife is to be the center of a family. Boys and girls, men and women, are to go out from her to live in the world. Scan it closely and you will find that the world will be modeled very much after its wives. If we have great and good men, great and good institutions, States and countries, it is because we have great and good wives. A wife will be happy just about in proportion to the amount of good she does. That amount of good will depend very much upon the education of her girlhood; so that view it in whatever light we will, a woman's life, usefulness, and happiness depend in no small degree upon the length and character of her girlhood. If she remains unmarried till she is twenty-three or twenty-five, and develops and cultivates herself as she ought, she will be almost sure to make a good and useful woman, an ornament and an inspiration to the circle in which she moves. If she marries at sixteen or eighteen she will be very likely to make just what she is—an immature, unfinished specimen of humanity; nothing more, nothing less.
One point more I would dwell upon a moment. It is this: The married life, though entered never so well, and with all proper preparation, must be lived well or it will not be useful or happy. Married life will not go itself, or if it does it will not keep the track. It will turn off at every switch, and fly off at every turn or impediment. It needs a couple of good conductors who understand the engineering of life. Good watch must be kept for breakers ahead. The fires must be kept up by a constant addition of the fuel of affection. The boilers must be kept full and the machinery in order, and all hands at their posts, else there will be a smashing up, or life will go hobbling or jolting along, wearing and tearing, breaking and bruising, leaving some heads and hearts to get well the best way they can. It requires skill, prudence, and judgment to lead this life well, and these must be tempered with forbearance, charity, and integrity. Individual rights, opinions, and feelings must be respected; individual duties must be faithfully performed; the proprieties of courtesy and kindness must be most strictly observed; violations of politeness and affection must be prohibited; ebullitions of temper must be considered as sad and lamentable improprieties, to be mourned over but always quickly and readily forgiven; the motto of each should be, "I will be, do, and bear all I can and ask as little as possible." A constant and perfect agreement in opinion and feeling between the parties must never be expected. The rule should be, that they will agree just so far as possible without a violation of the individual conscience, and when they can not agree further they should agree to disagree, with mutual respect for each other's opinions and mutual esteem and love for each other. Neither one should attempt or wish to set up a petty and matrimonial tyranny over the other. Each should think, feel, and act in kindly independence; and each should encourage the other in independent thought and action with a view to individual culture and mutual benefit. But below all thought and back of all action there should be a strong, earnest, two-fold principle of benevolence and affection. Come what may, love should rule over all. This should pervade and magnetize the whole life. Love should utter its melodious tones and breathe its sweet spirit in every department of the united life. This is the life that should be determined upon before Marriage, this the life that the parties should mark out for themselves in all its detail, before they enter into the Marriage covenant; and this the life when lived that is blessed and blissful beyond expression.
I said in the outset of this discourse that the young are apt to hang too many garlands about the married life. This is so as this life is generally lived. But if it is wisely entered and truthfully lived, it is more beautiful and happy than any have imagined. It is the true life which God has designed for his children, replete with joy, delightful, improving, and satisfactory in the highest possible earthly degree. It is the hallowed home of virtue, peace, and bliss. It is the antechamber of heaven, the visiting place of angels, the communing ground of kindred spirits. Let all young women who would reap such joys and be thus blessed and happy, learn to live the true life, and be prepared to weave for their brows the true wife's perennial crown of goodness.
Our Father In Heaven—Moral Obligations and Religious Duties—Impiety of Professed Christians—Deficiency of Religious Gratitude—Gratitude makes Life Cheerful—Religion gives Joy to Life—Love, the Seed of Religion—The Religion of Christ—Woman's Heart a Natural Shrine—Religion fit for all Conditions—Love for the Unseen—Personal Acquaintance not necessary for Love—The Idea of God Spontaneous—It is the Unseen we Love—Life well lived is Glorious.
We propose a few thoughts in the present Lecture to young women upon their Religious Duties. The theme is a rich one. Any consideration of our relations and duties to the great Father of all, the Lord Almighty, the primal source of being and blessing, is replete with moral grandeur. God is a great and glorious word, expressive of all infinities, all perfections, all glories, word of all words, in power and grandeur above all. It should inspire us with reverence. The thought of that incomprehensible Being, which we mean by this word, should ever impress us with moral solemnity. And when we associate with this majestic Being the idea of Father, clothe him in a Father's love, fill him with a Father's care and benignity, he appears to us infinitely lovely and attractive as well as infinitely great and good. It is no common thought that gives to the universe of spiritual creatures a Father, that binds them all in one family with God as the head, that mingles in the great cup of universal existence of which countless millions of sentient beings are daily partaking, the sweetness of a father's goodness; that sees that goodness in the shining sun and falling shower, in the starry firmament and the little flower, in the sweep of worlds and the drop of dew, in the waving grain and the bubbling spring, in the changing seasons and the still, calm moments as they fly, in the great race of men, and in the individual members thereof. We often say "Our Father in Heaven," but we seldom think of the majesty of the expression, nor the glorious beauty of the thought it conveys. God's grandeur is as much in his love as his power, as much in his goodness as his wisdom. He is as sublime in his Fatherhood as in his supremacy. The ocean of his tenderness is as deep as the mountain of his holiness is high. God, in his character, sweeps over the infinite spaces of principle and gathers in the infinite perfections of all characteristics of good. It is to such a Being that we owe our existence and all that makes it blessed and blissful. When we think of the earth as our present home, so wisely arranged, so beautifully adorned, and of heaven as our final and immortal scene of growing joy and blessedness; when we think of our own wonderful powers of mind and heart, and the objects of love and thought about us upon which to exercise them, progressive, immortal, Godlike in their nature; when, added to these, we think of the Bible with its blessed and elevating relations, its love of truth, its mines of wisdom, its moral sanctions, and, more than all, its Divine Redeemer, our Pattern Friend, Brother, and Saviour, we can not well fail to be impressed with the infinite excellency of Him from whom we have received such rich benefactions.
And when we think that all this is done for us of his own unpurchased love, our obligations to our Divine Father become clear to our moral perceptions. We then see that we have religious duties to perform, duties which press upon us at all seasons and places, duties which we must perform, or stand before the great white throne of Eternal Love convicted of deep and dark ingratitude. We have received every thing, and have the promise of every thing, and have given nothing. We have been loved with an infinite affection, and have the promise of its everlasting continuance, and yet many of us have not returned the poor affections of our feeble finite hearts. We have been over-arched with the firmament of immortal goodness all our lives long, and have the promise that it shall span us forever, and yet we have drank in but little of its life and light. We have fed on the bounties of a benignant Providence and have scarcely returned an emotion of genuine thoughtfulness. Here we are; God is all the time doing for us; and we are thoughtless of his favors and indifferent to his holy friendship. He strives to impress us with his greatness, but we scarcely seem to recognize the entreaties of his love or the munificence of his bountiful hand. Through His love he pleads in the earnest eloquence of a divine life and a perfect heart for us to bow in love at the feet of Jesus; but even those of us who profess to do so are cold in our love and weak in our resolutions. The world has stolen away our hearts. Evil associates have corrupted our good manners, and we are irreverent, sensuous, even in the house of God. To illustrate our impiety: suppose you, by some accident, had been cast away on some lone island, barrenness reigned around you; cold winds beat against you; alone and desolate you stood exposed to every element without and a prey to every want within. The sea in its wild fury roared around you. No living being heard your cries; no heart beat in sympathy with yours. Now, suppose in your distress a good spirit of the island should speak to you, out of a cell or cloud, and ask your wants; and should lead you into a beautiful temple, and tell you it was yours; should feed and clothe you; should surround you with beauty and comfort, furnish you with friends, and make every thing delightful so far as another could do for you, what kind of feelings ought you to entertain toward the good spirit? If you should forget him in your enjoyments, should abuse his gifts, should make him the subject of jest and sport, and blaspheme his name, would you not, in your thoughtful moments, despise yourself for your ingratitude? And yet this good spirit, in the supposed case, would not do for you a tithe your heavenly Father is doing for you every day; for life, and breath, and powers, all natural as well as spiritual things, we receive at his hand.
Few things are more base than an ungrateful spirit. If we do a favor either to a friend or stranger, and get no response of gratitude, we feel that something is wrong in his heart. Ingratitude we name among the most hateful feelings that ever darken the fallen heart of humanity. It is the parent of innumerable vices. It is a cold, Satanic mood of mind, suggestive of numberless forms of evil. And yet, unless I greatly mistake, there is much ingratitude in all our hearts. We eat, and forget the Hand that feeds us. We wear, and heed not the Adorner of our persons. We admire our bodies, and offer not an emotion of praise to the grand Architect of the universe and its beauty. We rejoice in our strength and comeliness, scarcely thinking that we owe it all to the Divine love. We delight in our domestic relations and affections, and often grow eloquent in praise of the sweet emotions of delicious joy which rise within us, half forgetting that they are all gifts from the gracious Divinity.
We grow proud in the might of our minds, and vain of our works, bloating often to the bursting point, claiming all the glory to ourselves, awarding little or none to God. This is lamentably true to an alarming extent. It is true of youth as well as manhood. Though youth is brimful of good impulses and quick affections, it is sadly deficient in religious gratitude. It is right that young people should enjoy the good things of life and the world, should make merry with each other, and even be gay amid the profusion of natural gaiety about them, but in doing so they need not and should not be unmindful of their good Father in heaven. First in their affections, highest in their joyful adoration should He stand. God is a parent. In this light should He be regarded. To be grateful to a parent for favors received does not interfere with the natural buoyancy of the heart. To love a parent does not make less active and cheerful the love we bear others, nor gloom our lives with one single cloud. The young woman who loves her father with an earnest affection, will not love any body else less, but more. The young man who loves his mother with his whole soul, who at all times and places, amid all pleasures and amusements, retains her image in his heart of hearts, and turns to her ever as the refreshing fountain of his sweetest joy, is none the less capable of loving all his fellow-men. On the contrary, the love he bears his mother will be the seed from which will grow a grand tree of love, the branches and freshness of which will fill his whole heart and beautify his whole life. If a young man loves his mother truly, he is safe for a good life. In the end his love will conquer all and bear off the crown of victory. So of a young woman. This love of parents is among the healthiest and noblest feelings of the heart. It seems to be the germinating point of both affection and virtue. It is both a guard against evil and an inspiration to good. It is more than simple love, such as we bear others. It is mingled with gratitude. And as we grow older, gratitude becomes the stronger feeling. And as gratitude assumes the supremacy, the feeling becomes sweeter and holier. It assumes a religious nature. It is baptized at the fountain of religion. And instead of glooming life, it because it is the power of love. "God is love." It is simple as the story of love in the human heart. "The wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein." All can easily learn how to love God. Ask the Saviour, and he will say, "Love thy Father." This is the burden of the glorious sermon of His life. If we love the Father, it must be in Christ. He has shown us the Father. Through no other name under heaven is the Father given. By no other can we come to the Father, for no other has shown him. Christ is the only way open. How simple, how beautiful—"Love thy Father, and thou shalt be saved"—saved from darkness and sin!
Christ is the same as God speaking to us; it is God through Christ saying, "Love me, and thou shalt be blest." It is as though a good father said to his child, "Love me, and thou shalt be a good and happy child." The child that loves the Father will obey the Father's voice of wisdom, and be good as he is great. Love of the parent is the seed of virtue. Love of God is the seed of religion. It is full of gratitude, humility, meekness; it is self-sacrificing, forbearing, merciful; burdened with the sweet spirit of forgiveness. The love of God is the central love sending out its influence through the whole heart and life. Who loves God is saved from hatred, impiety, from all intentional wrong. His heart is made the receptacle of a principle of eternal love, and hence of "eternal life." 'This love molds and modifies the character; checks the impulses; sways the passions; subdues enmity; elevates the affections; gives the ruling loves to truth, to heaven, makes it more cheerful and bright. It sweetens the whole heart and sheds a moral and affectionate influence through the whole mind.
Similar to this love of parents, and growing out of it, should be our love to God. Him we should regard as our parent. As such we should always think of Him. In all our works, and walks, and joys He should be present in our minds as our Father. Sweet shall be our thoughts of Him. Cheerfully should we meditate upon His wonderful works and ways. Gladly should our hearts praise Him and our souls commune with him. His commands should inspire us with holy delight. All our life should be made radiant with the inspiring thoughts of our Father. His matchless love and marvelous wisdom should make us feel like little children, happily yet adoringly and gratefully receiving the gifts of parental goodness. With such a love as this growing in our hearts and shining in our lives, how good and happy must we be! And yet this is religion. Love thy Father in heaven, is the full command. All else grows out of this. We can not love our fellows unless we love our Father. This is the sum of all Christ's teachings. He gave us the Father. "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." Before Christ, the Father was not known. God had only partially revealed himself. The glory of the full revelation was reserved for the immortal and immaculate Son. To know or love the Father is eternal life. This is the religion of the Saviour—this the religion of redemption. Salvation is in it. It is the power of God to God; gives its sanction to virtue; adorns the mind with the graces of godliness; sweetens the heart with amenities of goodness, and dignifies the soul with a spiritual assimilation to the Father. Man thus becomes a spiritual child of God. He is by a nature a natural child, and he is thus by grace or love made a spiritual child. Under the power of this love the world assumes a new aspect; it becomes a secondary object, good in its place, but only a means of spiritual improvement. Life becomes sublime in its great ends and eternal results. The soul of man becomes, at least in prospect, a glorious and eternal thing, often darkened by error and polluted by sin, but the object of God's love and care and the Redeemer's solicitude, progressively unfolding its powers and putting on its beauties under the sunshine of the All-seeing eye. And the race of men become the children of the great and loving Father, whose care and smiles no figures shall number, no ages wear out. This is the religion we believe the Saviour inculcated among men, which was the power of God unto salvation, the central and all-powerful idea of which is love. This is the religion in which thousands are this day rejoicing and living lives which are the brightest ornaments of humanity. And this is the religion which we offer to our youthful friends as the only cure for sin-sick humanity—the only safe guide through life—the only hope and strength of youth, manhood, and old age. We have not a separate religion for youth, nor a distinct religious life for them to live different from the old. It is the beauty of true religion, as of true love, that it lasts through all seasons. It is to grow by, live by, and die by; and, what is more, to rise through endless ages by. We understand this to be an eternal religion. Who becomes truly religious here, learns so much of heaven, walks so far in the celestial road. A truthful, religious life is the first step in heaven, not to heaven. Christ calls it the kingdom of heaven. Without the principles of religious love no woman's character is perfect, or so perfect as it may be. However learned, refined, or cultured she may be by art and society, if her soul is not baptized in this religious love, this love of the Father, she lacks the most essential beauty of spiritual womanhood. If she is not grateful to God, not in love with his glorious perfections, she is yet low and worldly. Her soul is bound in the chains of sense. It is this religion which adds the finishing touch of excellency to woman's character. It is this which makes her divine. In her best estate she is only earthly till this has wrought its redeeming work within her. To be blessed as she may be to make her life good and spiritually grand, she should begin early this devotion to the Father. Her heart should in early youth turn its face to its God and look up in sweet and grateful adoration. Woman's heart is the natural shrine of religion; and this shrine should be dedicated while she is young. In cheerful confidence she should give her soul to her Father in heaven. The earlier she does it, the truer and happier will be her life. It is a sad mistake that religion is depressing and saddening to youth. "It is the soul's calm sunshine and the heartfelt joy." It is good for youth as for old age—as good to rejoice as to mourn by. It is as much for sunshine as for shade. He who has the most of it is the lightest-hearted man.