Poor Charlotte! she did not know that the best way to avoid sin is to flee from temptation. The shopman was at leisure, and waited to know what she wished. She had not decided what to do; but the ribbon was uppermost in her thoughts, and she asked, "What is the price of that ribbon?" "Four cents," said the shopman as he quickly unrolled it; "here are pink, white, blue and yellow; pink I should think the most becoming to you, Miss. How much shall I cut you? enough to trim a bonnet?"
Charlotte was agitated; the man's volubility confused her, and she stammered forth, "Half a yard, if you please, sir."
It was cut off, rolled up, and in her hand, and she had paid the two cents before she collected her thoughts; and then as she slowly returned home, she unfolded her purchase, and tried in her admiration of its gay color to forget she had done wrong.
Perhaps if Charlotte had read her Bible she would have remembered how Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck dead for mocking the Lord, by pretending they had given all when they had reserved a part of their goods. Their sin consisted not so much in keeping back a part as in lying unto God; and this sin Charlotte was about to commit by pretending to put in the mission box more than she really did.
Sunday morning dawned bright and lovely. Annie was up and tidily dressed long before the hour for school. She had time to sing a sweet morning hymn, and to feed the tame robins with the crumbs she had carefully swept up, and then with her little Bible sat down to study her lesson again, and assure herself that she had it perfect. As she read the sacred volume, and dwelt upon its precious promises, which her mother had explained to her, she felt doubly sorry for those poor people who were deprived of so great a blessing; and then she thought of her little offering, and wished with all her heart it had been more.
Charlotte, on the contrary, awoke late, after an uneasy slumber, and hurriedly eating her breakfast, for which she had but little appetite, dressed herself, and opening the box where she kept her little treasures, took out the gay pink ribbon, and after a long admiring gaze, pinned it carefully about her neck. As she closed the box cover she saw the three cents lying in one corner, and hastily put them in her pocket with a feeling of self-abasement that made her cheeks glow with shame. She ran quickly down stairs, lest her mother should see her and question her about the ribbon, for although Mrs. Murray would not have disapproved of her daughter's purchase, Charlotte dreaded her mother's ridicule for so soon abandoning her new-fangled notions, as she called them.
She had promised to call for Annie, and she walked quietly along, hoping her friend would not notice the ribbon nor ask to see the money. As she slowly approached Mrs. Grey's cottage, she saw Annie's favorite kitten jump up in the low window seat to bask in the warm sunshine. Charlotte saw the little cat put out her paw to play with something, and just as she was opposite the window a small bright piece rolled down into the road. She hastened forward and picked it up; it was a bright new five-pence.
"This must be Annie's," she thought; and looking in the window she saw the room was empty, and Annie's Bible and handkerchief laid on the window seat. Puss was busy playing with the leaves of the book, and Charlotte walked slowly on with the piece yet in her hand.
"How pretty and bright it looks," she thought. "I wish that I had one to give. I know the girls will stare to see Annie put in so much. How lucky it was that I passed; if I had not it would have been lost, or some one else would have picked it up. I will give it to her in school; I shall not keep it, of course." Thus quieting her conscience she walked quickly to school, and took her seat among the rest.
How gradual is the descent to sin. Charlotte would have spurned the idea of stealing, and yet from desiring to give with a wrong motive she had been led on step by step, and when the girl who sat next her asked what she had brought, she opened her hand and showed the piece of money.
School had commenced when Annie came in; she looked disheartened, and her eyes were red with crying. Charlotte's heart smote her, and could she have spoken to Annie, she would doubtless have returned the piece of money, but she dared not leave her seat, and after a few moments it was whispered around the class that Annie Grey had lost her mission money. Then the girls about Charlotte told each other how much she had brought, and she began to think,
"What difference will it make if I put it in the box? it is all the same, Annie says, who gives the money, so that it is given;" and so when the box was handed round she dropped the five cent piece in. Her conscience reproved her severely as she glanced at poor Annie, whose tears were flowing afresh, and who, when the teacher handed her the box, said in low, broken tones, that she had lost her offering and had nothing to give.
After dismissal the children crowded around Annie, pitying and questioning her. Charlotte moved away, she could not speak to her injured friend; but as she passed she heard Annie say, "I laid it on my Bible. I was just about tying it in the corner of my pocket handkerchief when mother called me away; when I came back it was gone. Kitty was sitting in the window, and I suppose must have knocked it down in the road. I searched all over the room, and out in the road, but could not find it."
"I am really sorry," said one.
"And I, and I," added three or four more.
"Let us go and help her look for it again," said they all, "perhaps we may find it yet," for Annie's gentleness had made her beloved by all.
Charlotte's feelings were far from enviable as she went towards home; she hated herself and felt perfectly miserable. As soon as she arrived at the house she went hastily up stairs, and took off the hateful ribbon, as it now appeared, with a feeling of disgust, and throwing herself on the bed cried long and bitterly. Charlotte did not know how to pray to God to give her a clean heart and forgive her sin; she never thought of asking His forgiveness, or confessing her fault; she felt sick at heart, restless and unhappy. Such are ever the consequences of sin. She ate no dinner, and her mother told her to go and lie down, as she did not look well. Charlotte gladly went up stairs again, and after another hearty crying spell fell fast asleep.
When she awoke it was evening, and going down stairs she found that her mother had gone to visit a neighbor. Charlotte stood out by the door, and although it was a lovely summer night, a gloom seemed to her to overhang everything. Her little brothers spoke to her, and she answered them harshly and sent them away. While she stood idly musing a miserable old beggar woman, who bore but an indifferent character in the neighborhood, came hobbling along; she came up to the little girl and asked an alms. Almost instinctively she put her hand in her pocket, and taking thence the three cents placed them with a feeling of relief in the beggar's hand. She thought she was doing a good act, and would atone for her wicked conduct. The old woman was profuse of thanks, and taking from her dirty apron a double handful of sour and unripe fruit, placed it in Charlotte's lap and went away.
Charlotte's parents had forbidden her eating unripe fruit; but a day begun in sin was not unlikely to end in disobedience. She felt feverish and thirsty, and so biting one of the apples went on eating until all were gone. She then went up to bed, and feeling afraid to be alone, for a bad conscience is always fearful, she closed her eyes and fell almost immediately asleep.
She was awakened in the night by sharp and violent pain; she dreaded to call her mother, as she would have to tell her what she had been eating, and so she bore the suffering as long as she could; but her restless tossings and moans aroused her mother, who slept in an adjoining room, and hastening in to her daughter, she found her in a high state of fever. She did all she could for her, but the next morning Charlotte was so much worse that a physician was sent for. She was quite delirious when he came, and he pronounced her situation dangerous.
The poor girl raved incessantly about ribbons and Annie's tearful face, and seemed to be in great distress of mind. Annie heard that Charlotte was very ill, and came to see her. She was shocked to hear her talk so wildly, and to see her face flushed with fever. She stayed some time, but Charlotte did not know her, although she often mentioned her name. When Annie returned home she asked her mother's permission to stay with Charlotte as much as possible, which Mrs. Grey cheerfully gave, and went to visit her herself.
For a whole week poor Charlotte's fever raged violently, and as Annie or her mother were with her constantly, they could not fail to discover from the sick girl's ravings that she had taken the lost fivepence. Annie, however, who heartily forgave her playmate, never mentioned what she heard to her mother, and Mrs. Grey also wisely refrained from telling her suspicions. She was better acquainted with the treatment of the sick than Mrs. Murray, and she watched over Charlotte with the tenderness of a mother. One day Annie sat reading her Bible by the bedside when Charlotte awoke from a long sleep, the first she had enjoyed, and looking towards Annie said in a feeble voice,
"Oh, dear Annie, is that you?"
The little girl rose, and bending over her sick playmate, begged her in a gentle voice to lie still and be quiet.
"I will, I will," answered Charlotte, clasping her hands feebly about her friend's neck as she leaned towards her, "if you will only say you forgive me. Oh, you know not what a wicked girl I am, and yet it seems as if I had been telling everybody."
"Never mind now, dear," whispered Annie, "only keep still or you will bring on your fever again."
"I believe I have been very ill, and have said many strange things," murmured Charlotte, "but I know you now and understand what I say. Do you think you can forgive me, Annie?"
"Yes, dear Charlotte, and I love you better than ever now, so do not talk any more." Annie kissed her tenderly as she spoke, and the sick girl laid her head upon the pillow still holding Annie's hand in her own.
From this time Charlotte rapidly improved, and one afternoon, when her mother and Mrs. Grey and Annie were sitting with her, she told them the whole truth about the lost money, and begged them to forgive her. Little Annie, whose tears were flowing fast, kissing her again and again, assured her of her entire forgiveness, and told her never to mention it again.
Mrs. Grey then said, "I think that we all forgive your fault, my dear child, but there is One whose forgiveness you must first seek before your repentance can be sincere. The sin you have committed against God is far greater than any injury you have done us. In the first place, my dear Charlotte, you wished to give with a wrong motive; you did not seek to please God and serve Him, by giving your trifle with a sincere heart and earnest prayers. You sought rather the praise of your teachers; and worse even than this, you wished to awaken the envy of your companions. Such a gift, however large, could never be acceptable to the just God, who knows all hearts, and bids us to do good in secret and He will reward us openly. You see, my little girl, how one misstep makes the way for another,—how this pride begat envy, and envy covetousness, and then how quickly did deceit and dishonesty and disobedience come after. Do not think me harsh, my dear child, from my heart I forgive you; your punishment has been severe, but I trust it will be to you a well-spring of grace; and now let us humbly ask the forgiveness and blessing of that just and yet merciful God who for Jesus' sake will hear our prayers."
They knelt, and Mrs. Grey made a touching and earnest prayer; even Mrs. Murray was affected to tears; she felt ashamed of her daughter's conduct; she knew she herself was to blame, and this event had a good effect upon her future conduct.
After a little while Charlotte asked for her box, and taking out the pink ribbon placed it in Mrs. Grey's hand and begged her to burn it, as she could not bear to see it.
"No," said Mrs. Grey, "keep it, Charlotte; it will remind you of your fatal error, and perhaps, through God's blessing, may sometimes lead you from the path of sin into that of holiness."
Charlotte took her friend's advice, and after her recovery never gave utterance to a falsehood. She and Annie became Sunday-school teachers, and through the grace of God Charlotte was the means of bringing her whole family into the fold of the Good Shepherd; and while she lived she always carefully treasured the pink ribbon, which was a memento alike of her fault and her sincere repentance.
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LETTER FROM A FATHER TO A SON.
MY DEAR SON:—Seldom, if ever, have I perused a letter of deeper interest to myself as a father, than the one you lately addressed to your sister. Long had it been my daily prayer that the Spirit of God would impress you with the importance of becoming a Christian; from your letter I infer that you are anxiously inquiring after the "great salvation." It is all-important that you be guided aright. What must you do?
The Bible should be our guide in matters involving our spiritual interests, and we need not fear to follow its directions. The Bible declares that in order to be saved the sinner must "repent." This is the first step.
But what is it to repent? Let me tell you. Suppose, then, that a person spreads a false and injurious report about another, by which his character is wounded, his influence lessened, and his business destroyed. This is wrong. Of this wrong, the injurer at length becoming sensible, and deeply regretting it, repairs to the one whom he has injured, confesses the wrong, seeks forgiveness, does all in his power to make amends, and offends no more. This is repentance.
Now, when such sorrow is exercised toward God for wrong done to Him, when that wrong is deeply deplored, is honestly confessed, and is followed by a permanent reformation, that is repentance toward God. Such repentance God requires; nor can one become a Christian who does not exercise it. This is one unalterable condition of salvation. I do not mean that the penitent sinner will never afterwards, in no instance, sin again. He may sometimes, again, do wrong, for so long as he is in the world imperfection will pertain to him; but the ruling power of sin will be broken in his heart. He may sometimes sin; but whenever he does he will lament it. He will retire to his closet, and while there alone with God his tears will flow. Oh! how will he pray and wrestle that he may be forgiven; and what solemn resolutions will he make to sin no more! This he will continue to do month after month, and year after year, as long as he lives, as long as he ever does any wrong. To forsake sin becomes a principle of his life; to confess and forsake it, a habit of his soul. Repentance, then, is the first step.
But the Bible adds, "Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Belief, or faith, as it is called, is another exercise required in order to be saved. What now is faith? Let me illustrate this.
Suppose a person is standing on the branch of a tree. It appears to be sufficiently firm to bear him, and he feels secure. But presently he perceives that it is beginning to break, and if it break he may be dashed on the rocks below. What shall he do? He looks abroad for help. At this critical moment a person presents himself at the foot of the tree, and says, "Let go, let go, and I will catch you." But he is afraid. He fears that the person may not be able, or may be unwilling to save him. But the branch continues to break, and destruction is before him. Meanwhile the kind-hearted person below renews his assurance, "Let go, let go, confide in me and I'll catch you." At last the person on the branch becomes satisfied that no other hope remains for him, so he says, "I'll do as this friend bids me; I'll trust him." He lets go, falls, and the other catches him. This is faith, or in other words it is confidence.
Now the sinner is liable to fall under the wrath of God for the wrong he has done, and there to perish. He may repent of that wrong, and repentance is most reasonable, and is, we have seen, required; but repentance of itself never repairs a wrong. One may repent that he has killed another, but that does not restore life. One may be sorry that he has broken God's commands, but that does not repair the dishonor done to the Divine government. That government must be upheld. How can it be done? I will tell you how it has been done. Christ consented to take the sinner's place. On the cross he suffered for and instead of the sinner; and God has decided that whosoever, being penitent for sin, will confide in his Son, or trust him, shall be saved.
Sinners are wont to put a high value upon some goodness which they fancy they possess, or upon good actions which they imagine they have done. These, they conceive, are sufficient to save them; and sinners generally feel quite secure. How little concerned, my son, have you been. But sinners mistake as to their goodness. They are all "dead in trespasses and sins." They are under condemnation. They are in imminent danger. Any day they may fall into the hands of an angry God. Sinners under conviction see this and feel this. The branch of self-righteousness on which they stand is insufficient to bear them. By-and-by it begins to give way. When the sinner feels this he cries, "What shall I do? Who will save me?"
Now Christ is commissioned to save, and when the poor sinner sees that he is about to perish, and in that state cries for help, Christ comes to him and says, "Let go all hope in yourself; let go dependence upon every other thing; trust to me and I will save you." "Come, for all things are ready." But may be the sinner is afraid. Will Christ do as he promises? Is he able to save? Well, the sinner looks round—he hesitates—perhaps prays—weeps—promises; but while all these are well enough in their places, they never of themselves bring peace and safety to the anxious heart. At length he sees and feels that there is no one but Christ, who stands as it were at the bottom of the tree, that can save him. And now he lifts up his voice and cries, "Lord, save me, or I perish." Into the hands of Christ he falls, and from that moment he is safe. This is Gospel faith or confidence.
And this repentance and faith which I have described are necessary in order to salvation. So the Bible decides; and whenever a soul exercises them that soul is a Christian soul, and that man is a Christian man.
There is yet one question further of great moment. You hope, perhaps, that you are a Christian—that you have truly repented, and do exercise true faith. You ask, How shall one decide?
I will tell you this also. Suppose you agree with a nurseryman to furnish you with a tree of a particular kind. He brings you one. You inquire, "Is this the kind of tree I engaged?" He replies, "Yes." But you say, "How do I know? It looks indeed like the tree in question, and you say it is; but there are other trees which strongly resemble it." He rejoins, "I myself grafted it, and I almost know." "Ah! yes, almost; but are you certain?" "No," he replies, "I am not absolutely certain, and no one can be sure at this moment." "But what shall I do?" you ask. "I want that particular tree." "Well," says he, "I will suggest one infallible test. Set it out on your grounds. It will soon bear fruit, and that will be a sure and satisfactory test." "Is there no other way?" you ask—"no shorter, better way?" "None," he replies. "This is the only sure evidence which man can have."
Let us apply these remarks. As there is but one infallible test as to a tree, so there is but one in respect to a man claiming to be a Christian. "What fruit does he bear?" "By their fruits," says our Savior, "ye shall know them." Only a good tree brings forth good fruit. Here, then, we have a plain, simple, and, I may add, infallible rule for testing ourselves. What kind of fruit are we bearing? What fruit must we bear? "The fruits of the Spirit," says the Bible, "are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith," &c. If, then, we have been born of the Spirit, i.e., born again, or in other words, if we are Christians, we shall bear the fruits of the Spirit.
I have known persons suggest various marks or tests by which to try themselves; but I have never found any which could certainly be depended upon besides the one which I have named—the fruit which one brings forth. The application of this test requires time. For evidence of Christian character, a person must examine himself month after month and year after year. His great aim must be to glorify God. He will, therefore, strive to keep his commandments. He will shun all known evil, and let others see that he sets a high value upon all that is "lovely and of good report." He will pray, not one day or one month, but habitually. His life will be a life of prayer, and in all the duties of the Christian profession he will endeavor to persevere. He will find himself imperfect, and will sometimes fail; but when he fails he will not sink down in despair and give up, but he will repent and say, "I'll do better next time;" and thus he will go forward gathering strength. Many trials and difficulties he will find, but the way will grow smoother and easier. His evidence will increase. The path of the righteous is as the light which shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
And now, my dear son, are you willing to set out in all sober earnestness so to live, not one day, but always? If you are, God will bless and aid you. You will be a happy boy, and as you grow older you will be happier still; and in the end you will go to God and to your pious friends now in heaven, or who may hereafter reach that blissful abode, and spend an eternity in loving, praising and serving God. This is the constant prayer of your affectionate father.
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CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
BY GEORGIANA M. SYKES.
Little Charlie, the youngest child of our pastor, was the delight of all the household, but especially of the infirm grand-mother, to whose aid and solace he devoted his little efforts. He was a beautiful and active child, of nearly three years, and was to the parsonage what the father emphatically called him,—its "fountain of joy." But little Charlie was suddenly taken from it, after an illness of a few hours. A week afterward, FANNY, a beautiful and highly intelligent child of five years, died of the same fearful disease, scarlet fever. The following little poems were intended as sketches of the characteristics of the two lovely children.
Some three years after, death bore away also little EMMA, a child two years old, who had in some measure replaced the lost children of the parsonage. To express the sparkling and exuberant vivacity of this last darling of friends very dear to the writer, has been the object of another simple lay. There are smitten hearts enough in the homes to which this magazine finds its way to respond to notes that would commemorate the infant dead.
Beside our pilgrim path there sprang A pleasant little rill, Whose murmur, ever in our ear, Was cheerful music still.
The earliest rays of brightening morn, Back to our eyes it flashed, And onward through the livelong day, In tireless sport it dashed.
We loved the little sparkling rill, We sunned us in its glance;— The turf looked green where, near our feet, It kept its joyous dance.
And welcome to our weariness Was the clear draught it gave; E'en way-worn age took heart and bowed, Its aching brow to lave.
But where is now our pleasant rill, We miss it from our side; We looked, and it was at its full— We turned, and it was dried.
Oh Father.—thou whose gracious hand Bestowed the boon at first, A parched and desert land is this— Let not thy servants thirst!
Fountains of joy at thy right hand Are gushing evermore— Bid them for us, thy fainting ones, Their rich abundance pour.
We miss thee on the threshold wide. Smiling little Fanny! Thine offered hand was wont to guide Our footsteps to thy mother's side, Ready little Fanny!
We miss the welcome of thy face, Winning little Fanny! We miss thy bright cheek's rounded grace Thy clear blue eyes' confiding gaze, Lovely little Fanny!
We miss thy glowing earnestness, Guileless little Fanny! We miss thy clasping arms' caress, The solace of thy tenderness, Loving little Fanny!
We miss thy haste at school-time bell, Docile little Fanny! Learning with eager face to spell, Thy Sabbath verses conning well, Studious little Fanny!
We miss thee at the hour of prayer, Gentle little Fanny! Thy sweet low voice and thoughtful air, Reading God's word with earnest care, Serious little Fanny!
The hour of play brings woeful dearth, Merry little Fanny! With thee the voice of childhood's mirth, Died from about our twilight hearth, Joyous little Fanny!
But angels' gain doth our loss prove, Precious little Fanny! Now dwelleth with our God above[C] That little one whose life was love, Blessed little Fanny!
A floweret on the grassy mound Of buried hopes sprang up;— Tears fell upon its bursting leaves And gemmed its opening cup.
But such a rosy sun-light fell Upon those tear-drops there, That no bright crystals of the morn Such diamond-hues might wear.
No glancing wing of summer-bird Was ever half so gay As that fair flower—no insect's hues Shone with such changeful play.
It nodded gaily to the touch Of every wandering bee, Its petals tossed in every breeze, And scattered odors free.
And they who watched the pleasant plant In its bright bursting bloom, Hailed in its growth their bower of rest,— Solace for years to come.
But He who better knew their need Laid its fair blossoms low;— Between their souls and heaven's clear light Tendril nor leaf might grow.
Then oh! how sad the grassy mounds Its graceful growth had veiled!— How sere and faded was their life, Its fragrance all exhaled;—
Till from the blue o'erarching sky, A clearer beam was given, A light that showed them labor here, And promised joy in heaven.
* * * * *
GLEANINGS BY THE WAYSIDE. No. 2.
I shall attempt to show by an every-day sort of logic, rather than by any set argument, that young children, when religiously educated, do at a very early age comprehend the being of a God,—that the mind is so constituted that to such prayer is usually an agreeable service,—that in times of sickness or difficulty, or when they have done wrong, they do usually find relief in looking to God for relief and for forgiveness.
I have known quite young children, in a dying state, when their parents have hesitated as to the expediency of referring, in the presence of the child, to the period of dissolution as near, in some paroxysm of distress at once soothed and quieted by the strains of agonizing prayer of the father, that relief might be afforded to the little sufferer, commending it to Jesus.
From my own early experience I cannot but infer that young children do as readily comprehend the sublime doctrine of a superintending providence as the man of gray hairs. We know from reason and revelation that the heavens declare the glory of God, and that the earth showeth forth his handiwork—day unto day utterreth speech, and night unto night showeth forth knowledge of him.
As soon therefore as a child begins to reason and to ask questions, "Who made this?" and "who made that?" it can understand that "the great and good God made heaven and earth." Indeed this truth is so self-evident that the heathen who have not the Bible are said to be without excuse if they do not love and worship the only living and true God, as God.
The man, therefore, of fourscore years, though he may understand all things else,—how to chain the lightning, to analyze all earthly substances, to solve every problem in Euclid, yet in matters of Gospel faith, before he can enter the kingdom of God, must come down to the capacity of a little child, and take all upon trust, and believe, and obey, and acquiesce, simply on the ground, "My Father told me so."
One of the first things I remember with distinctness as having occurred in the nursery, related to the matter of prayer. One night when a sister a year and a half older than myself had, as usual, repeated all our prayers suited to the evening, which had been taught to us, from a sudden impulse I made up a prayer which I thought better expressed my feelings and wants than any which I had repeated. My sister, who was more timid, was quite excited on the occasion. She said that as I did not know how to make up prayers, God would be very angry with me. We agreed to refer the case in the morning to our mother. When we came to repeat our morning prayers, the preceding transaction came to mind, and we hurried as fast as possible to dress, each one eager first to obtain the desired verdict.
Almost breathless with excitement, we stated the affair to mother. Her quick reply was, "The Bible says that Hezekiah, king of Israel, had been sick, and he went upon the house-top, and his noise was as the chattering of a swallow, but the Lord heard him." Without asking any further questions, ever after we both framed prayers for ourselves.
Soon after this occurrence a sudden death occurred in our neighborhood, and my mind was deeply affected. I went stealthily into our spare chamber to offer up prayer, feeling the need of pardon. Just as I knelt by the bedside, my eldest sister opened the door. Seeing her surprise at seeing me there and thus engaged, I was about to rise, when she came up to me, put her arms about my neck, kissed me, and without saying anything, left the room. This tacit approval of my conduct, so delicately manifested, won for her my love and my confidence in her superior wisdom; and though nearly sixty years with all their important changes have intervened, yet that trifling act is still held in grateful remembrance.
One such incident is sufficient to show the immense influence which an elder brother or sister may have, for weal or for woe, over the younger children. The smothered falsehood, the petty theft, the robbing of a bird's-nest, the incipient oath, the first intoxicating draught, the making light of serious things, with the repeated injunction—"Don't tell mother!" may foster in a younger brother the germ of evil propensities, and lead on till some fatal crime is the result.
When I was nine years old a letter was received by my father, the contents of which set us children in an uproar of joy. It was from our father's elder brother, who resided in a city seventy miles distant from our country residence. This letter stated if all was favorable we might expect all his family to become our guests on the following week, our aunt and cousins to remain in our family some length of time, and be subjected to the trial of inoculation from that dreaded disease—small-pox. We were all on tip-toe to welcome our friends, and especially our uncle, who from time to time had supplied us with many rare books, so that we had now quite a valuable library of our own. All our own family of children were at the same time put into the hospital. I shall never forget "O dear," "O dear, I have got the symptoms, I have got the symptoms!" that went around among us children.
I cannot but take occasion to offer a grateful tribute of thankfulness that we are not now required by law, as then, to subject our children to such an ordeal and to such strict regimen. Who ever after entirely recovered from a dread of "hasty pudding and molasses" without salt?
When all was safely over, and my uncle came to take his family home, there seemed to have been added a new tie of affection by this recent intimacy, and it was agreed that my uncle's eldest son, a year or two older than myself, should remain, and for one year recite to my father, and that I should spend that time in my uncle's family, and become the companion of a cousin three years younger, who never had a sister.
I have often wished that such exchanges might be more frequently made by brothers and sisters and intimate friends. It is certainly a cheap and admirable method of securing to each child those kind and faithful attentions which money will not always command. I needed the polish of city life—the freedom and the restraints imposed in well-disciplined schools, where personal graces and accomplishments were considered matters of importance as well as furniture for the mind; while my cousin would be benefited in body and mind by such country rambles, such fishing and hunting excursions, such feats of ball-playing, as "city folks" know but little about. Some fears were expressed lest this boy should lose something by forsaking his well-organized school, and fall behind his classmates. But I have heard that cousin say, as to literary attainments, this year was but the beginning of any high intellectual attainments; for till now he had never learned how to study so that intellectual culture became agreeable to him. And what was gratifying, it was found on his return home that he was far in advance of his classmates. So needful is it often to have the body invigorated, and the mind should receive a right bias, and that such kind of stimulants be applied as my father was able to give to the wakeful, active mind, of his aspiring nephew.
Many times after my return home did my mother bless "sister N——" for the many useful things she had taught me. My highest ambition had been to iron my uncle's large fine white cravats, which, being cut bias, was no easy attainment for a child.
I cannot well describe my astonishment and grief of heart, on being installed in my new and otherwise happy, delightful home, to find wanting a family altar. I had indeed the comfort of knowing that in my own distant home the "absent child" was never for once forgotten, when the dear circle gathered for family worship.
So certain was the belief which my parents entertained that an indispensable portion was to be obtained for each child in going in unto the King of kings, that in case of a mere temporary sickness, if at all consistent, family prayer was had in the room of the invalid. Not even a blessing was invoked at the morning meal till every child was found in the right seat. In case of a delinquency, perhaps not a word of rebuke was uttered, but that silent, patient waiting, was rebuke enough for even the most tardy.
It was felt, I believe, by each member of the family, that there was meaning in the every-day, earnest petition, "May we all be found actually and habitually ready for death, our great and last change." My father did not pray as an old lady is said to have done each day, "that God would bless her descendants as long as grass should grow or water should run." But there was something in his prayers equivalent to this. He did seldom omit to pray that God would bless his children and his children's children to the latest generation.
Oh how often, while absent, did my mind revert to that assembled group at home! Nothing, I believe, serves to bind the hearts of children so closely to their parents and to each other as this taking messages for each other to the court of heaven. Never before did I realize that each brother and sister were to me a second self.
I was a most firm believer in the truth of the Bible, and I have often thought more inclined to take the greater part as literal than most others. I had often read with fear and trembling the passage, "I will pour out my fury upon the heathen, and upon the families that call not upon my name." To dwell in a Christian land and be considered no better than heathen—what a dreadful threatening; a condemnation, however, not above the comprehension of a child. Here I was in such a family, and here I was expected to remain for a full year. I do not recollect to have entertained any fears for my personal safety, yet every time a thunder-storm seemed to rack the earth, and as peal after peal with reverberated shocks were re-echoed from one part of the firmament to the other, I was in dread lest some bolt might be sent in fury upon our dwelling on account of such neglect. Little did these friends know what thoughts were often passing through my mind as I ruminated upon their privileges and their disregard of so plain and positive a duty. I did often long to confide to my aunt, whom I so much venerated, my thoughts and feelings on religious subjects, with the same freedom I had been encouraged to do to my own dear mother. I can never forget the struggle I had on one occasion. A lady came to pass a day in the family. The conversation happened to turn upon the importance and efficacy of prayer. Here now, I thought, is an opportunity I may never have again to express an opinion on a subject I had thought so much about; and summoning to my aid all the resolution I could, I ventured to remark, "the Bible says, 'the effectual and fervent prayer of the righteous prevaileth much.'" I saw a smile pass over the radiant and beautiful countenance of my aunt, and I instantly conjectured that I had misquoted the passage. For a long time, as I had opportunity, I turned over the pages of my Bible, before I could detect my mistake. I cannot say how long a period elapsed, after I left this pleasant family, before the family-altar was erected, but I believe not a very long period. One thing I am grateful to record, that when my aunt died at middle age, all with her was "peace," "peace," "sweet peace." And my venerated uncle recently fell asleep in Jesus, at the advanced age of more than fourscore years, like a shock of corn fully ripe.
* * * * *
INTELLECTUAL POWER OF WOMAN.
BY REV. S. W. FISHER.
There has been a long-standing dispute respecting the intellectual powers of the two sexes, and the consequent style of education suitable to each. Happily, the truth on this subject may be fully spoken, without obliging me to exalt the father at the expense of the mother, or ennoble man by denying the essential equality of woman. It is among the things settled by experience, that, equal or not equal in talents, woman, the moment she escapes from the despotism of brute force, and is suffered to unfold and exercise her powers in her own legitimate sphere, shares with man the sceptre of influence; and without presuming to wrest from him a visible authority, by the mere force of her gentle nature silently directs that authority, and so rules the world. She may not debate in the senate or preside at the bar—she may not read philosophy in the university or preach in the sanctuary—she may not direct the national councils or lead armies to battle; but there is a style of influence resulting from her peculiar nature which constitutes her power and gives it greatness. As the sexes were designed to fill different positions in the economy of life, it would not be in harmony with the manifestations of divine wisdom in all things else to suppose that the powers of each were not peculiarly fitted for their own appropriate sphere. Woman gains nothing—she always loses when she leaves her own sphere for that of man. When she forsakes the household and the gentler duties of domestic life for the labors of the field, the pulpit, the rostrum, the court-room, she always descends from her own bright station, and invariably fails to ascend that of man. She falls between the two; and the world gazes at her as not exactly a woman, not quite a man, perplexed in what category of natural history to classify her. This remark holds specially true as you ascend from savage to refined society, where the rights and duties of women have been most fully recognized and most accurately defined. Mind is not to be weighed in scales. It must be judged by its uses and its influence. And who that compasses the peculiar purpose of woman's life; who that understands the meaning of those good old Saxon words, mother, sister, wife, daughter; who that estimates aright the duties they involve, the influences they embody in giving character to all of human kind, will hesitate to place her intellect, with its quickness, delicacy and persuasiveness, as high in the scale of power as that of the father, husband and son? If we estimate her mind by its actual power of influence when she is permitted to fill to the best advantage her circle of action, we shall find a capacity for education equal to that of him who, merely in reference to the temporary relations of society, has been constituted her lord. If you look up into yonder firmament with your naked eye, the astronomer will point you to a star which shines down upon you single in rays of pure liquid light. But if you will ascend yon eminence and direct towards it that magnificent instrument which modern science has brought to such perfection of power, the same star will suddenly resolve itself into two beautiful luminaries, equal in brilliancy, equal in all stellar excellence, emitting rays of different and intensely vivid hues, yet so exactly correspondent to each other, and so embracing each other, and so mingling their various colors as to pour upon the unaided vision the pure, sparkling light of a single orb. So is it with man and woman. Created twofold, equal in all human attributes, excellence and influence, different but correspondent, to the eye of Jehovah the harmony of their union in life is perfect, and as one complete being that life streams forth in rays of light and influence upon society.
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A LESSON FOR HUSBANDS AND WIVES.
The following letter, addressed to a mutual friend, we rescue from oblivion, containing as it does a lesson for husbands and wives, and most gracefully conveyed.
We shall certainly be pardoned if we take a more than ordinary interest to preserve a memento of that "hanging garden," as for months it was as fully seen from our own window as from that of the writer, though a little more remote, yet near enough to feast our eyes, and by its morning fragrance to cause our hearts to render more grateful incense to Him who clothes the lily with such beauty, and gives to the rose its sweet perfume. It is a sad pity that there are not more young wives, who, like the writer of the following letter, are ready to strive by their overflowing love, their gentleness and forbearance, to win their husbands to love and good works.
Perhaps some good divine who may perchance read this article will tell us whether the Apostle Peter, when he said, "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?" did not by this language mean to convey the idea of a promise that if the wife did conduct herself towards her husband on strictly Gospel principles, she would be the honored instrument of saving his soul?
"I would like to tell you how my husband and I amuse ourselves, and contrive to have all we want. You will see that we illustrate the old saying, that 'where there is a will, there is a way,' and that some people can do things as well as others. We both love flowers extremely, but we neither own nor control a foot of ground; still, we have this summer cultivated and enjoyed the perpetual bloom of more than a hundred varieties. You will wonder how this is done when you know that we are at board, and our entire apartments consist of a parlor and dormitory—both upon the second floor. Very fortunately our windows open upon a roof which shelters a lower piazza, and this roof we make our balcony. Last May we placed here eight very large pots of rich earth, which we filled with such seeds and plants as suited our fancy. Now, while I sit writing, my windows are shaded with the scarlet runner, morning glory, Madeira and cypress vines, so that I need no other curtains. Then, on a level with my eye, is one mass of pink and green—brilliant verbenas, petimas, roses and oleanders seem really to glow in the morning light. Flowers in the city are more than beautiful, for the language they speak is so different from everything about them. Their lives are so lovely, returning to the culturer such wealth of beauty—and then their odors seem to me instead of voices. Often, when I am reading, and forget for a time my sweet companions, the fragrance of a heliotrope or a jessamine greets me, causing a sense of delight, as if a beautiful voice had whispered to me, or some sweet spirit kissed me. With this presence of beauty and purity around me, I cannot feel loneliness or discontent.
"Our flowers are so near to us we have become really intimate with them. We know all their habits, and every insect that harms them. I love to see the tender tendril of a vine stretch for the string that is fastened at a little distance for its support, and then wind about it so gladly. Every morning it is a new excitement to see long festoons of our green curtains, variegated with trumpet-shaped morning-glories, looking towards the sun, and mingled with them the scarlet star of the cypress vine. When my husband comes home wearied and disgusted with Wall-street, it refreshes his body and soul to look into our "hanging garden," and note new beauties the day has developed. I trust the time and affection we thus spend are not wasted, for I believe the sentiment of Coleridge's lines—
'He prayeth best who loveth best All things, both great and small For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.'
But there is one circumstance that makes this garden precious, which I have yet to tell you, and you will agree with me that it is the best part of it. When we were married, my husband was in the habit of drinking a glass of beer daily. I did not approve of it, and used to fancy he was apathetic and less agreeable afterwards; but as he was so fond of it, I made up my mind not to disagree upon the subject. Last spring, when we wished some flowers, we hesitated on account of the expense, for we endeavor to be economical, as all young married people should. Then my husband very nobly said that though one glass of beer cost but little, a week's beer amounted to considerable, and he would discontinue the habit, and appropriate the old beer expenditure upon flowers. He has faithfully kept his proposal, and often as we sit by our window, he points to the blooming balcony, saying, 'There is my summer's beer.' The consequence of this sacrifice is that I am a grateful and contented wife; and I do assure you (I being judge) that since beer is turned into flowers, my husband is the most agreeable of mankind.
Yours very truly."
* * * * *
NEVER FAINT IN PRAYER.
"Men ought always to pray and not to faint."
So important is a spirit of prayer to mothers who are bearing the heat and burden of the day, that we give for their encouragement a few devout meditations by Rev. W. Mason, on the above passage. And though penned towards the close of the last century, they have lost none of their freshness or fragrance.
Christ opposes praying to fainting, for fainting prevents praying. Have you not found it so? When weary and faint in your mind, when your spirits are oppressed, your frame low and languid, you have thought this is not a time for prayer; yea, but it is: pray always. Now is the time to sigh out the burden of your heart and the sorrows of your spirit. Now, though in broken accents, breathe your complaints into your Father's ear, whose love and care over you is that of a tender and affectionate father.
What makes you faint? Do troubles and afflictions? Here is a reviving cordial. "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." Ps. 50:15. Does a body of sin and death? Here is a supporting promise. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus shall be saved." Rom. 10:13. Do we faint because we have called and prayed again and again to the Lord against any besetting sin, prevailing temptation, rebellious lust, or evil temper, and yet the Lord has not given us victory over it? Still, says the Lord, pray always—persevere, be importunate, faint not; remember that blessed word, "my time is not yet come, but your time is always ready." John 7:6. "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." Matt. 26:41. Note the difference between being tempted and entering into temptation.
Perhaps you think your prayers are irksome to God, and therefore you are ready to faint and to give over praying? Look at David; he begins to pray in a very heartless, hopeless way, "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord, forever?" but see how he concludes; he breaks out in full vigor of soul, "I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me." Ps. 13:6. Above all, look to Jesus, who ever lives to pray for you; look for his spirit to help your infirmities. Rom. 8:26.
* * * * *
THE MOTHERS OF THE BIBLE.
Imagination can picture no more animating scenes than those which were presented to the beholder at the seasons of the year when Judea poured forth her inhabitants in crowds to attend the solemn festivals appointed by Jehovah, and observed with punctilious exactness by the people. Our present study leads us to contemplate one of these scenes.
From some remote town on the borders of Gentile territory the onward movement commences. A few families having finished all their preparations, close the door of their simple home, and with glowing faces and hopeful steps begin their march. They are soon joined by others, and again by new reinforcements. Every town, as they pass, replenishes their ranks, until, as they approach Shiloh, they are increased to a mighty multitude. It is a time of joy. Songs and shouts rend the air, and unwonted gladness reigns. All ages and conditions are here, and every variety of human form and face. Let us draw near to one family group. There is something more than ordinarily interesting in their appearance. The father has a noble mien as he walks on, conversing gaily with his children, answering their eager questions, and pointing out the objects of deepest import to a Jew as they draw near the Tabernacle. The children are light-hearted and gay, but the mother's countenance does not please us. We feel instinctively that she is not worthy of her husband; and especially is there an expression wholly incongruous with this hour of harmony and rejoicing. While we look, she lingers behind her family, and speaks to one, who, with slow step and downcast looks, walks meekly on, and seems as if she pondered some deep grief. Will she whisper a word of comfort in the ear of the sorrowful? Ah, no. A mocking smile is on her lips, which utter taunting words, and she glances maliciously round, winking to her neighbors to notice how she can humble the spirit of one who is less favored than herself. "What would you give now to see a son of yours holding the father's hand, or a daughter tripping gladly along by his side? Where are your children, Hannah? You surely could not have left them behind to miss all this pleasure? Perhaps they have strayed among the company? Would it not be well to summon them, that they may hear the father's instructions, and join in the song which we shall all sing as we draw near to Shiloh?" Cruel words! and they do their work. Like barbed arrows, they stick fast in the sore heart of this injured one. Her head sinks, but she utters no reply. She only draws nearer to her husband, and walks more closely in his footsteps.
* * * * *
The night has passed, and a cloudless sun looks down on the assembled thousands of Israel. Elkanah has presented his offering at the Tabernacle, and has now gathered his family to the feast in the tent. As is his wont, he gives to each a portion, and hilarity presides at the board. The animated scene around them—the white tents stretching as far as the eye can reach—the sound of innumerable voices—the meeting with friends—all conspire to make every heart overflow, and the well-spread table invites to new expressions of satisfaction and delight. But here, also, as on the journey, one heart is sad. At Elkanah's right hand sits Hannah, her plate filled by the hand of love with "a worthy portion;" but it stands untasted before her. Her husband is troubled. He has watched her struggles for self-control, and seen her vain endeavors to eat and be happy like those around her; and, divining in part the cause of her sorrow, he tenderly strives to comfort her. "Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? Am I not better to thee than ten sons?" That voice of sympathy and compassion is too much. She rises and leaves the tent to calm in solitude, as best she may, her bosom's strife. Why must she be thus afflicted? Severe, indeed, and bitter are the elements which are mingled in her cup. Jehovah has judged her. She has been taught to believe that those who are childless are so because of His just displeasure. Her fellow-creatures also despise her; her neighbors look suspiciously upon her. Wherefore should it be thus? She wanders slowly, and with breaking heart, towards the Tabernacle. The aged Eli sits by one of the posts of the door as she enters the sacred inclosure, but she heeds him not. She withdraws to a quiet spot, and finds at last a refuge. She kneels, and the long pent-up sorrow has now its way; she "pours out her soul before the Lord." Happy, though sorrowful, Hannah! She has learned one lesson of which the prosperous know nothing; she has learned to confide in her Maker, as she could in no other friend. It were useless to go to her husband with the oft-told trouble. He is ever fond and kind; but though she is childless, he is not, and he cannot appreciate the extent of her grief. All that human sympathy can do, he will do, but human sympathy cannot be perfect. It were worse than useless to tell him of Peninnah's taunts and reproaches. It would be wicked, and bring upon her Heaven's just wrath, if she did aught to mar the peace of a happy family. No; there is no earthly ear into which she can "pour out her soul." But here her tears may flow unrestrained, and she need leave nothing unsaid.
"O Thou who hidest the sorrowing soul under the shadow of thy wings—who art witness to the tears which must be hidden from all other eyes—who dost listen patiently to the sighs and groans which can be breathed in no other presence—to whom are freely told the griefs which the dearest earthly friend cannot comprehend,—Thou who upbraidest not—who understandest and dost appreciate perfectly the woes under which the stricken soul sways like a reed in the tempest, and whose infinite love and sympathy reaches to the deepest recesses of the heart—unto whom none ever appealed in vain—God of all grace and consolation, blessed are they who put their trust in thee."
Long and earnest is Hannah's communion with her God; and as she pleads her cause with humility, and penitence, and love, she feels her burdened heart grow lighter. Hope springs up where was only despair, and a new life spreads itself before her; even the hard thoughts which she had harbored towards Peninnah had melted as she knelt in that holy presence. The love of the Eternal has bathed her spirit in its blessed flood, and grief, and selfishness, and envy have alike been washed away. Strengthened with might by the spirit of the Lord, she puts forth a vigorous faith; and taking hold on the covenant faithfulness of Jehovah, she makes a solemn vow. The turmoil within is hushed. She rises and goes forth like one who is prepared for any trial—who is endued with strength by a mighty though unseen power, and sustained by a love which has none of the imperfect and unsatisfying elements that must always mingle with the purest earthly affection. Meek, confiding, and gentle as ever, she is yet not the same. She meets reproach even from the High Priest himself with calmness. She returns to her husband and his family no longer shrinking and bowed down: "she eats, and her countenance is no more sad."
Another morning dawns. Hannah, has obtained her husband's sanction to the vow which she made in her anguish. Elkanah and his household rise early and worship before the Lord, and return to their house in Ramah.
* * * * *
A year passes, another and another, but Hannah is not found among the multitude going up to Shiloh. Has she, the pious and devoted one, become indifferent to the service of Jehovah, or have the reproaches and taunts of Peninnah become too intolerable in the presence of her neighbors, so that she remains at home for peace? No. Reproach will harm her no longer. As the company departs, she stands with smiling countenance looking upon their preparations, and in her arms a fair son; and her parting words to her husband are—"I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever."
* * * * *
Will she really leave him? Will she consent to part from her treasure and joy—her only one? What a blessing he has been to her! Seven years of peace and overflowing happiness has that little one purchased for her burdened and distracted spirit. Can she return to Ramah without him, to solitude and loneliness, uncheered by his winning ways and childish prattle? Surely this is a sorrow which will wring her heart, as never before. Not so. There she stands again on the spot where she once knelt and wept and vowed, but no tears fall now from her eyes—no grief is in her tones. She has come to fulfill her vow, "to lend her son to the Lord as long as he liveth." Again she prays as she is about parting from him. What a prayer!—a song of exultation rather. Listen to its sublime import. "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord." How did we wrong thee, Hannah! We said thy son had purchased peace and joy for thee. Our low, selfish, doting hearts had not soared to the heights of thy lofty devotion. We deemed thee such an one as ourselves. In the gift, truly thou hast found comfort; but the Giver is He in whom thou hast delighted, and therefore thou canst so readily restore what he lent thee, on the conditions of thy vow. The Lord thy God has been, and is still to be, thy portion, and thou fearest not to leave thy precious one in His house. We thought to hear a wail from thee, but we were among the foolish. Thy soul is filled with the beauty and glory of the Lord, and thou hast not a word of sadness now. Thou leavest thy lamb among wolves—thy consecrated one with the "sons of Belial"—yet thou tremblest not. Who shall guide his childish feet in wisdom's ways when thou art far away? What hinders that he shall look on vice till it become familiar, and he be even like those around him? The old man is no fit protector for him. Does not thy heart fear? "Oh, woman, great is thy faith!"
Come hither, ye who would learn a lesson of wisdom; ponder this record of the sacred word. Hannah returned to Ramah. She became the mother of sons and daughters; and yearly as she went with her husband to Shiloh, she carried to her first-born a coat wrought by maternal love, and rejoiced to see him growing before the Lord. How long she did this, we are not told. We have searched in vain for a word or hint that she lived to see the excellence and greatness of the son whom she "asked of God." The only clew which we can find is, that Samuel's house was in Ramah, the house of his parents; and we wish to think he lived there to be with them; and we hope his mother's eyes looked on the altar which he built there unto the Lord, and that her heart was gladdened by witnessing the proofs of his wisdom and grace, and the favor with which the Almighty regarded him.
But though we know little of Hannah—she being many thousand years "dead, yet speaketh."—Come hither, ye who are tempest-tossed on a sea of vexations. Learn from her how to gain the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Come ye who feel that God hath judged you, and that you suffer affliction from his displeasure. Learn that you should draw nearer to him, instead of departing from him. Come with Hannah to his very courts. "Pour out your soul" before Him; keep back none of your griefs; confess your sins; offer your vows; multiply your prayers; rise not till you also can go forth with a countenance no more sad. He is "the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." Come hither, ye who long to know how your children may assuredly be the Lord's. Strive to enter into the spirit of Hannah's vow, remembering, meantime, all it implied as she afterwards fulfilled it. Appreciate, if you can, her love and devotion to her God; and when you can so entirely consecrate your all to Him, be assured he will care for what is His own, and none shall be able to pluck it out of his hand. Come hither, ye who are called to part with your treasures; listen to Hannah's song as she gives up her only son, to call him hers no more—listen till you feel your heart joining also in the lofty anthem, and you forget all selfish grief, as she did, in the contemplation of His glories who is the portion of the soul. "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord." Alas! alas! how does even the Christian heart, which has professed to be satisfied with God, and content with his holy will, often depart from him, and "provoke him to jealousy" with many idols! Inordinate affection for some earthly object absorbs the soul which vowed to love him supremely. In its undisguised excess, it says to the beloved object, "Give me your heart; Jehovah must be your salvation, but let me be your happiness. A portion of your time, your attention, your service, He must have; but your daily, hourly thoughts, your dreams, your feelings, let them all be of me—of mine." Oh for such a love as she possessed! We should not then love our children less, but more, far more than now, and with a better, happier love—a love from which all needless anxiety would flee—a perfect love, casting out fear.
Ye who feel that death to your loved ones would not so distress you as the fear of leaving them among baleful influences—who tremble in view of the evil that is in the world, remember where Hannah left, apparently without a misgiving, her gentle child. With Eli,—who could not even train his own sons in the fear of the Lord—with those sons who made themselves vile, and caused Israel to transgress,—she left him with the Lord. "Go ye and do likewise," and remember, also, He is the God of the whole earth.
* * * * *
"OPENING THE GATE."
I lately met with an account of a youth, under the above title, which contains a volume of instruction. It is from a southern paper, and while particularly designed for a latitude where servants abound, it contains hints which may prove highly useful to lads in communities where servants are less numerous:
"'I wish that you would send a servant to open the gate for me,' said a well-grown boy of ten to his mother, as he paused with his satchel upon his back, before the gate, and surveyed its clasped fastening.
"'Why, John, can't you open the gate for yourself?' said Mrs. Easy. 'A boy of your age and strength ought certainly to be able to do that.'
"'I could do it, I suppose,' said the child, 'but it's heavy, and I don't like the trouble. The servant can open it for me just as well. Pray, what is the use of having servants if they are not to wait upon us?'
"The servant was sent to open the gate. The boy passed out, and went whistling on his way to school. When he reached his seat in the academy, he drew from his satchel his arithmetic and began to inspect his sums.
"'I cannot do these,' he whispered to his seat-mate; they are too hard.'
"'But you can try,' replied his companion.
"'I know that I can,' said John, 'but it's too much trouble. Pray, what are teachers for if not to help us out of difficulties? I shall carry my slate to Prof. Helpwell."
"Alas! poor John. He had come to another closed gate—a gate leading into a beautiful and boundless science, 'the laws of which are the modes in which God acts in sustaining all the works of His hands'—the science of mathematics. He could have opened the gate and entered in alone and explored the riches of the realm, but his mother had injudiciously let him rest with the idea, that it is as well to have gates opened for us, as to exert our own strength. The result was, that her son, like the young hopeful sent to Mr. Wiseman, soon concluded that he had no 'genius' for mathematics, and threw up the study.
"The same was true of Latin. He could have learned the declensions of the nouns and the conjugation of the verbs as well as other boys of his age; but his seat-mate very kindly volunteered to 'tell him in class,' and what was the use in opening the gate into the Latin language, when another would do it for him? Oh, no! John Easy had no idea of tasking mental or physical strength when he could avoid it, and the consequence was, that numerous gates remained closed to him all the days of his life—gates of honor—gates to riches—gates to happiness. Children ought to be early taught that it is always best to help themselves."
This is the true secret of making a man. What would Columbus, or Washington and Franklin, or Webster and Clay, have accomplished had they proceeded on the principle of John Easy? No youth can rationally hope to attain to eminence in any thing who is not ready to "open the gate" for himself. And then, poor Mrs. Easy, how she did misjudge! Better for her son, had she dismissed her servants—or rather had she directed them to some more appropriate service, and let Master John have remained at the gate day and night for a month, unless willing, before the expiration of that time, to have opened it for himself, and by his own strength. Parents in their well-meant kindness, or, perhaps, it were better named, thoughtless indulgence, often repress energies which, if their children were compelled to put forth, would result in benefits of the most important character.
It is, indeed, painful to see boys, as we sometimes see them, struggling against "wind and tide;" but watch such boys—follow them—see how they put forth strength as it accumulates—apply energies as they increase—make use of new expedients as they need them, and by-and-by where are they? Indeed, now and then they are obliged to lift at the gate pretty lustily to get it open; now and then they are obliged to turn a pretty sharp corner, and, perhaps, lose a little skin from a shin-bone or a knuckle-joint, but, at length, where are they? Why, you see them sitting in "the gate"—a scriptural phrase for the post of honor. Who is that judge who so adorns the bench? My Lord Mansfield, or Sir Matthew Hale, or Chief Justice Marshall? Why, and from what condition, has he reached his eminence? That was a boy who some years since was an active, persevering little fellow round the streets, the son of the poor widow, who lives under the hill. She was poor, but she had the faculty of infusing her own energy into her boy, Matthew or Tommy; and now he has grown to be one of the eminent men of the country. Yes; and I recollect there was now and then to be seen with Tommy, when he had occasionally a half hour of leisure—but that was not often—there was one John Easy, whose mother always kept a servant to wait upon him, to open and shut the gate for him, and almost to help him breathe. Well, and where is John Easy? Why there he is, this moment, a poor, shiftless, penniless being, who never loved to open the gate for himself, and now nobody ever desires to open a gate to him.
And the reason for all this difference is the different manner in which these boys were trained in their early days. "Train up a child," says the good book, "in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Analyze the direction, and see how it reads. Train up a child—what? Why train him—i.e., educate him, discipline him. Whom did you say? A child. Take him early, in the morning of life, before bad habits, indolent habits, vicious habits are formed. It is easy to bend the sapling, but difficult to bend the grown tree. You said train a child, did you? Yes. But how? Why, in the way in which he ought to go—i.e., in some useful employment—in the exercise of good moral affections—pious duties towards God, and benevolent actions towards his parents, brothers, companions. Thus train him—a child—and what then—what result may you anticipate? Why, the royal preacher says that when he is old—of course, then, during youth, manhood, into old age, through life he means, as long as he lives he will not—what? He will not depart from it, he will neither go back, nor go zig-zag, but forward, in that way in which he ought to walk, as a moral and accountable being of God, and a member of society, bound to do all the good he can. And thus he will come under the conditions of a just or honest man, of whom another Scripture says, "His path is as the shining light, which shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day." The perfect day! But when is that? Why in it may mean the day when God will openly acknowledge all the really good as his sons and daughters. But I love to take it in more enlarged sense—I take the perfect day to be when the good will be as perfect as they can be; but as that will not be to the end of eternity, those who are trained up in the way they should go, will probably continue to walk in it till the absolutely perfect day comes which will never come, for the good are going to grow better and better as long as eternity lasts. So much for setting out right with your children, parents!—bringing them up right—and this involves, among other things, teaching them to "open the gate for themselves" and similar sorts of things.
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BY REV. SAMUEL W. FISHER.
The nature of female education, its influence, its field of action, comprehending a wide range of the noblest topics, render it utterly impossible to do justice to the entire theme in the brief limits here assigned to it. Indeed it seems almost a superfluous effort, were it not expected, nay, demanded, to discuss the subject of education in a work like this.
Thanks to our Father in Heaven, who, in the crowning work of his creation, gave woman to man, made weakness her strength, modesty her citadel, grace and gentleness her attributes, affection her dower, and the heart of man her throne. With her, toil rises into pleasure, joy fills the breast with a larger benediction, and sorrow, losing half its bitterness, is transmitted into an element of power, a discipline of goodness. Even in the coarsest life, and the most depressing circumstances, woman hath this power of hallowing all things with the sunshine of her presence. But never does it unfold itself so finely as when education, instinct with religion, has accomplished its most successful work. It is only then that she reveals all her varied excellence, and develops her high capacities. It only unfolds powers that were latent, or develops those in harmony and beauty which otherwise would push themselves forth in shapes grotesque, gnarled and distorted. God creates the material, and impresses upon it his own laws. Man, in education, simply seeks to give those laws scope for action. The uneducated person, by a favorite figure of the old classic writers, has often been compared to the rough marble in the quarry; the educated to that marble chiselled by the hand of a Phidias into forms of beauty and pillars of strength. But the analogy holds good in only a single point. As the chisel reveals the form which the marble may be made to assume, so education unfolds the innate capacities of men. In all things else how poor the comparison! how faint the analogy! In the one case you have an aggregation of particles crystallized into shape, without organism, life or motion. In the other, you have life, growth, expansion. In the first you have a mass of limestone, neither more nor less than insensate matter, utterly incapable of any alteration from within itself. In the second, you have a living body, a mind, affections instinct with power, gifted with vitality, and forming the attributes of a being allied to and only a little lower than the angels. These constitute a life which, by its inherent force, must grow and unfold itself by a law of its own, whether you educate it or not. Some development it will make, some form it will assume by its own irrepressible and spontaneous action. The question, with us, is rather what that form shall be; whether it shall wear the visible robes of an immortal with a countenance glowing with the intelligence and pure affection of cherub and seraph, or through the rags and sensual impress of an earthly, send forth only occasional gleams of its higher nature. The great work of education is to stimulate and direct this native power of growth. God and the subject, co-working, effect all the rest.
In the wide sense in which it is proposed to consider the subject of education, three things are pre-supposed—personal talents, personal application, and the divine blessing. Without capacities to be developed, or with very inferior capacities, education is either wholly useless, or only partially successful. As it has no absolute creative power, and is utterly unable to add a single faculty to the mind, so the first condition of its success is the capacity for improvement in the subject. An idiot may be slightly affected by it, but the feebleness of his original powers forbids the noblest result of education. It teaches men how most successfully to use their own native force, and by exercise to increase it, but in no case can it supply the absence of that force. It is not its province to inspire genius, since that is the breath of God in the soul, bestowed as seemeth to him good, and at the disposal of no finite power. It is enough if it unfold and discipline, and guide genius in its mission to the world. We are not to demand that it shall make of every man a Newton, a Milton, a Hall, a Chalmers, a Mason, a Washington; or of every woman a Sappho, a De Stael, a Roland, a Hemans.
The supposition that all intellects are originally equal, however flattering to our pride, is no less prejudicial to the cause of education than false in fact. It throws upon teachers the responsibility of developing talents that have scarcely an existence, and securing attainments within the range of only the very finest powers, during the period usually assigned to this work. To the ignorant it misrepresents and dishonors education, when it presents for their judgment a very inferior intellect, which all the training of the schools has not inspired with power, as a specimen of the result of liberal pursuits. Such an intellect can never stand up beside an active though untutored mind—untutored in the schools, yet disciplined by the necessities around it. It is only in the comparison of minds of equal original power, but of different and unequal mental discipline, that the result of a thorough education reveal themselves most strikingly. The genius that, partially educated, makes a fine bar-room politician, a good county judge, a respectable member of the lower house in our State Legislature, or an expert mechanic and shrewd farmer, when developed by study and adorned with learning, rises to the foremost rank of men. Great original talents will usually give indication of their presence amidst the most depressing circumstances. But when a mind of this stamp has been allowed to unfold itself under the genial influence of large educational advantages, how will it grow in power, outstripping the multitude, as some majestic tree, rooted in a soil of peculiar richness rises above and spreads itself abroad over the surrounding forest? Our inquiry, however, at present, is not exclusively respecting individuals thus highly gifted.
Geniuses are rare in our world; sent occasionally to break up the monotony of life, impart new impulses to a generation, like comets blazing along the sky, startle the dosing mind, no longer on the stretch to enlarge the boundaries of human knowledge, and rouse men to gaze on visions of excellence yet unreached. Happily, the mass of mankind are not of this style of mind. Uniting by the process of education the powers which God has conferred upon them, with those of a more brilliant order which are occasionally given to a few, the advancement of the world in all things essential to its refinement, and purity, and exaltation, is probably as rapid and sure as it would be under a different constitution of things. Were all equally elevated, it might still be necessary for some to tower above the rest, and by the sense of inequality move the multitude to nobler aspirations. But while it is not permitted of God that all men should actually rise to thrones in the realm of mind, yet such is the native power of all sane minds, and such their great capacity of improvement, that, made subject to a healthful discipline they may not only qualify us for all the high duties of life on earth, but go on advancing in an ever-perfecting preparation for the life above.
The second thing pre-supposed in education is personal application. There is no thorough education that is not self-education. Unlike the statue which can be wrought only from without, the great work of education is to unfold the life within. This life always involves self-action. The scholar is not merely a passive recipient. He grows into power by an active reception of truth. Even when he listens to another's utterances of knowledge, what vigor of attention and memory are necessary to enable him to make that knowledge his own? But when he attempts himself to master a subject of importance, when he would rise into the higher region of mathematics, philosophy, history, poetry, religion, art; or even when he would prepare himself for grappling with the great questions of life, what long processes of thought! what patient gathering together of materials! what judgment, memory, comparison, and protracted meditation are essential to complete success? The man who would triumph over obstacles and ascend the heights of excellence in the realm of mind, must work with the continuous vigor of a steamship on an ocean voyage. Day by day the fire must burn, and the revolve in the calm and in the gale—in the sunshine and the storm. The innate excellency of genius or talents can give no exemption to its possessor from this law of mental growth. An educated mind is neither an aggregation of particles accreted around a center, as the stones grow, nor a substance, which, placed in a turner's lathe, comes forth an exquisitely wrought instrument. The mere passing through an academy or college, is not education. The enjoyment of the largest educational advantages by no means infers the possession of a mind and heart thoroughly educated; since there is an inner work to be performed by the subject of those advantages before he can lay claim to the possession of a well-disciplined and richly-stored intellect and affections. The phrase, "self-made men" is often so used as to convey the idea that the persons who have enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education, are rather made by their instructors. The supposition is in part unjust.
The outward means of education stimulate the mind, and thus assist the process of development; but it is absolutely essential to all growth in mental or moral excellence, that the person himself should be enlisted vigorously in the work. He must work as earnestly as the man destitute of his faculties. The difference between the two consists not in the fact that one walks and the other rides, but that the one is obliged to take a longer road to reach the same point. Teachers, books, recitations and lectures facilitate our course, direct us how most advantageously to study, point out the shortest path to the end we seek, and tend to rouse the soul to the putting forth of its powers; but neither of these can take the place of, or forestall intense personal application. The man without instructors, like a traveler without guide-boards, must take many a useless step, and often retrace his way. He may, after this experimental traveling, at length reach the same point with the person who has enjoyed superior literary aids, but it will cost the waste of many a precious hour, which might have been spent in enlarging the sphere of his vision and perfecting the symmetry of his intellectual powers. In cases of large attainments and ripe character, in either sex, the process of growth is laborious. Thinking is hard work. All things most excellent are the fruits of slow, patient working. The trees grow slowly, grain by grain; the planets creep round their orbits, inch by inch; the river hastens to the ocean by a gentle progress; the clouds gather the rain-drop from the invisible air, particle by particle, and we are not to ask that this immortal mind, the grandest thing in the world, shall reach its perfection by a single stride, or independently of the most early, profound and protracted self-labor. It is enough for us that, thankfully accepting the assistance of those who have ascended above us, we give ourselves to assiduous toil, until our souls grow up to the stature of perfect men.
The third thing pre-supposed in education is the divine benediction. In all spheres of action, we recognize the over-ruling providence of God working without us, and his Spirit commissioned to work within us. Nor is there any work of mortal life in which we need to allay unto ourselves the wisdom and energy of Jehovah, as an essential element of success than is this long process where truth, affection, decision, judgment, and perseverance in the teacher, are to win into the paths of self-labor minds of every degree of ability, and dispositions of every variety. When God smiles upon us, then this grand work of moulding hearts and intellects for their high destiny moves forward without friction, and the young heart silently and joyously comes forth into the light.
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GLEANINGS BY THE WAYSIDE. No. 3.
A river never rises higher than the source from whence it springs; so a character is never more elevated and consistent, in mature life, than the principles which were adopted in childhood were pure, reasonable, and consistent with truth: so a tree is either good or bad, and brings forth fruit after its own kind, though it be ever so stinted. If you find a crab-apple on a tree, you may be sure that the tree is a crab-tree. So one can predicate a pretty correct opinion of a person, as to character, disposition, and modes of thinking and acting, from a single isolated remark, incidentally made, or an act performed on the spur of the moment.
This I shall attempt to show by reference to two occurrences which took place in the case of a young husband and wife.
Joseph, the father of a young child, one day brought home "Abbott's Mother at Home," remarking to his wife, as he presented it, "Louise, I have been persuaded to buy this book, in the hope that it may aid us in the training of our little daughter."
Her quick and tart reply was—"I don't think I shall 'bring up' my child by a book."
It may be useful to learn under what peculiar circumstances this young wife and mother had herself been "brought up."
Certainly not, as a matter of course, in the country, where good books are comparatively difficult to be obtained, and (though every one has much to do) are usually highly prized, and read with avidity. Certainly not, as a matter of course, where there was a large family of children, and where all must share every thing in common, and where each must perform an allotted part in household duties, perhaps to eke out a scanty salary. Not in a farm-house, where the income will yield but a bare competency for the support of ten or twelve children. If there is a good and wise father and mother at the helm, it is under such conflicting circumstances that children are usually the most thoroughly and practically taught the great principles which should govern human society.
Louise was educated under very different circumstances. Her father's residence was the great metropolis. He was a very wealthy man, and he had the means of choosing any mode of education which he might prefer to adopt.