The records of the courts of France and Germany, (as detailed by the Duchess of Orleans,) in and succeeding the brilliant reign of Louis the Fourteenth—a period which was deemed the acme of elegance and refinement—exhibit a grossness, a vulgarity, and a coarseness, not to be found among the very lowest of our respectable poor. And the biography of the English Beau Nash, who attempted to reform the manners of the gentry, in the times of Queen Anne, exhibits violations of the rules of decency among the aristocracy, which the commonest yeoman of this land would feel disgraced in perpetrating.
This shows that our lowest classes, at this period, are more refined than were the highest in aristocratic lands, a hundred years ago; and another century may show the lowest classes, in wealth, in this country, attaining as high a polish as adorns those who now are leaders of good manners in the courts of kings.
THE PRESERVATION OF GOOD TEMPER IN THE HOUSEKEEPER.
There is nothing which has a more abiding influence on the happiness of a family than the preservation of equable and cheerful temper and tones in the housekeeper. A woman who is habitually gentle, sympathizing, forbearing, and cheerful, carries an atmosphere about her which imparts a soothing and sustaining influence, and renders it easier for all to do right, under her administration, than in any other situation.
The writer has known families where the mother's presence seemed the sunshine of the circle around her; imparting a cheering and vivifying power, scarcely realized till it was withdrawn. Every one, without thinking of it, or knowing why it was so, experienced a peaceful and invigorating influence as soon as he entered the sphere illumined by her smile, and sustained by her cheering kindness and sympathy. On the contrary, many a good housekeeper, (good in every respect but this,) by wearing a countenance of anxiety and dissatisfaction, and by indulging in the frequent use of sharp and reprehensive tones, more than destroys all the comfort which otherwise would result from her system, neatness, and economy.
There is a secret, social sympathy which every mind, to a greater or less degree, experiences with the feelings of those around, as they are manifested by the countenance and voice. A sorrowful, a discontented, or an angry countenance produces a silent, sympathetic influence, imparting a sombre shade to the mind, while tones of anger or complaint still more effectually jar the spirits.
No person can maintain a quiet and cheerful frame of mind while tones of discontent and displeasure are sounding on the ear. We may gradually accustom ourselves to the evil till it is partially diminished; but it always is an evil which greatly interferes with the enjoyment of the family state. There are sometimes cases where the entrance of the mistress of a family seems to awaken a slight apprehension in every mind around, as if each felt in danger of a reproof, for something either perpetrated or neglected. A woman who should go around her house with a small stinging snapper, which she habitually applied to those whom she met, would be encountered with feelings very much like those which are experienced by the inmates of a family where the mistress often uses her countenance and voice to inflict similar penalties for duties neglected.
Yet there are many allowances to be made for housekeepers, who sometimes imperceptibly and unconsciously fall into such habits. A woman who attempts to carry out any plans of system, order, and economy, and who has her feelings and habits conformed to certain rules, is constantly liable to have her plans crossed, and her taste violated, by the inexperience or inattention of those about her. And no housekeeper, whatever may be her habits, can escape the frequent recurrence of negligence or mistake, which interferes with her plans.
It is probable that there is no class of persons in the world who have such incessant trials of temper, and temptations to be fretful, as American housekeepers. For a housekeeper's business is not, like that of the other sex, limited to a particular department, for which previous preparation is made. It consists of ten thousand little disconnected items, which can never be so systematically arranged that there is no daily jostling somewhere. And in the best-regulated families, it is not unfrequently the case that some act of forgetfulness or carelessness, from some member, will disarrange the business of the whole day, so that every hour will bring renewed occasion for annoyance. And the more strongly a woman realizes the value of time, and the importance of system and order, the more will she be tempted to irritability and complaint.
The following considerations may aid in preparing a woman to meet such daily crosses with even a cheerful temper and tones.
In the first place, a woman who has charge of a large household should regard her duties as dignified, important, and difficult. The mind is so made as to be elevated and cheered by a sense of far-reaching influence and usefulness. A woman who feels that she is a cipher, and that it makes little difference how she performs her duties, has far less to sustain and invigorate her, than one who truly estimates the importance of her station. A man who feels that the destinies of a nation are turning on the judgment and skill with which he plans and executes, has a pressure of motive and an elevation of feeling which are great safeguards against all that is low, trivial, and degrading.
So, an American mother and housekeeper who rightly estimates the long train of influence which will pass down to thousands, whose destinies, from generation to generation, will be modified by those decisions of her will which regulate the temper, principles, and habits of her family, must be elevated above petty temptations which would otherwise assail her.
Again, a housekeeper should feel that she really has great difficulties to meet and overcome. A person who wrongly thinks there is little danger, can never maintain so faithful a guard as one who rightly estimates the temptations which beset her. Nor can one who thinks that they are trifling difficulties which she has to encounter, and trivial temptations to which she must yield, so much enjoy the just reward of conscious virtue and self-control as one who takes an opposite view of the subject.
A third method is, for a woman deliberately to calculate on having her best-arranged plans interfered with very often; and to be in such a state of preparation that the evil will not come unawares. So complicated are the pursuits and so diverse the habits of the various members of a family, that it is almost impossible for every one to avoid interfering with the plans and taste of a housekeeper, in some one point or another. It is, therefore, most wise for a woman to keep the loins of her mind ever girt, to meet such collisions with a cheerful and quiet spirit.
Another important rule is, to form all plans and arrangements in consistency with the means at command, and the character of those around. A woman who has a heedless husband, and young children, and incompetent domestics, ought not to make such plans as one may properly form who will not, in so many directions, meet embarrassment. She must aim at just as much as she can probably attain, and no more; and thus she will usually escape much temptation, and much of the irritation of disappointment.
The fifth, and a very important consideration, is, that system, economy, and neatness are valuable, only so far as they tend to promote the comfort and well-being of those affected. Some women seem to act under the impression that these advantages must be secured, at all events, even if the comfort of the family be the sacrifice. True, it is very important that children grow up in habits of system, neatness, and order; and it is very desirable that the mother give them every incentive, both by precept and example; but it is still more important that they grow up with amiable tempers, that they learn to meet the crosses of life with patience and cheerfulness; and nothing has a greater influence to secure this than a mother's example. Whenever, therefore, a woman can not accomplish her plans of neatness and order without injury to her own temper or to the temper of others, she ought to modify and reduce them until she can.
The sixth method relates to the government of the tones of voice. In many cases, when a woman's domestic arrangements are suddenly and seriously crossed, it is impossible not to feel some irritation. But it is always possible to refrain from angry tones. A woman can resolve that, whatever happens, she will not speak till she can do it in a calm and gentle manner. Perfect silence is a safe resort, when such control can not be attained as enables a person to speak calmly; and this determination, persevered in, will eventually be crowned with success.
Many persons seem to imagine that tones of anger are needful, in order to secure prompt obedience. But observation has convinced the writer that they are never necessary; that in all cases, reproof, administered in calm tones, would be better. A case will be given in illustration.
A young girl had been repeatedly charged to avoid a certain arrangement in cooking. On one day, when company was invited to dine, the direction was forgotten, and the consequence was an accident, which disarranged every thing, seriously injured the principal dish, and delayed dinner for an hour. The mistress of the family entered the kitchen just as it occurred, and at a glance, saw the extent of the mischief. For a moment, her eyes flashed, and her cheeks glowed; but she held her peace. After a minute or so, she gave directions in a calm voice, as to the best mode of retrieving the evil, and then left, without a word said to the offender.
After the company left, she sent for the girl, alone, and in a calm and kind manner pointed out the aggravations of the case, and described the trouble which had been caused to her husband, her visitors, and herself. She then portrayed the future evils which would result from such habits of neglect and inattention, and the modes of attempting to overcome them; and then offered a reward for the future, if, in a given time, she succeeded in improving in this respect. Not a tone of anger was uttered; and yet the severest scolding of a practiced Xantippe could not have secured such contrition, and determination to reform, as were gained by this method.
But similar negligence is often visited by a continuous stream of complaint and reproof, which, in most cases, is met either by sullen silence or impertinent retort, while anger prevents any contrition or any resolution of future amendment.
It is very certain, that some ladies do carry forward a most efficient government, both of children and domestics, without employing tones of anger; and therefore they are not indispensable, nor on any account desirable.
Though some ladies of intelligence and refinement do fall unconsciously into such a practice, it is certainly very unlady-like, and in very bad taste, to scold; and the further a woman departs from all approach to it, the more perfectly she sustains her character as a lady.
Another method of securing equanimity, amid the trials of domestic life is, to cultivate a habit of making allowances for the difficulties, ignorance, or temptations of those who violate rule or neglect duty. It is vain, and most unreasonable, to expect the consideration and care of a mature mind in childhood and youth; or that persons of such limited advantages as most domestics have enjoyed should practice proper self-control and possess proper habits and principles.
Every parent and every employer needs daily to cultivate the spirit expressed in the divine prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." The same allowances and forbearance which we supplicate from our Heavenly Father, and desire from our fellow-men in reference to our own deficiencies, we should constantly aim to extend to all who cross our feelings and interfere with our plans.
The last and most important mode of securing a placid and cheerful temper and tones is, by a constant belief in the influence of a superintending Providence. All persons are too much in the habit of regarding the more important events of life exclusively as under the control of Perfect Wisdom. But the fall of a sparrow, or the loss of a hair, they do not feel to be equally the result of his directing agency. In consequence of this, Christian persons who aim at perfect and cheerful submission to heavy afflictions, and who succeed to the edification of all about them, are sometimes sadly deficient under petty crosses. If a beloved child be laid in the grave, even if its death resulted from the carelessness of a domestic or of a physician, the eye is turned from the subordinate agent to the Supreme Guardian of all; and to him they bow, without murmur or complaint. But if a pudding be burnt, or a room badly swept, or an errand forgotten, then vexation and complaint are allowed, just as if these events were not appointed by Perfect Wisdom as much as the sorer chastisement.
A woman, therefore, needs to cultivate the habitual feeling that all the events of her nursery and kitchen are brought about by the permission of our Heavenly Father, and that fretfulness or complaint in regard to these is, in fact, complaining at the appointments of God, and is really as sinful as unsubmissive murmurs amid the sorer chastisements of his hand. And a woman who cultivates this habit of referring all the minor trials of life to the wise and benevolent agency of a heavenly Parent, and daily seeks his sympathy and aid to enable her to meet them with a quiet and cheerful spirit, will soon find it the perennial spring of abiding peace and content.
The power of religion to impart dignity and importance to the ordinary and seemingly petty details of domestic life, greatly depends upon the degree of faith in the reality of a life to come, and of its eternal results. A woman who is training a family simply with reference to this life may find exalted motives as she looks forward to unborn generations whose temporal prosperity and happiness are depending upon her fidelity and skill. But one who truly and firmly believes that this life is but the beginning of an eternal career to every immortal inmate of her home, and that the formation of tastes, habits, and character, under her care, will bring forth fruits of good or ill, not only through earthly generations, but through everlasting ages; such a woman secures a calm and exalted principle of action, which no earthly motives can impart.
HABITS OF SYSTEM AND ORDER.
Any discussion of the equality of the sexes, as to intellectual capacity, seems frivolous and useless, both because it can never be decided, and because there would be no possible advantage in the decision. But one topic, which is often drawn into this discussion, is of far more consequence; and that is, the relative importance and difficulty of the duties a woman is called to perform.
It is generally assumed, and almost as generally conceded, that a housekeeper's business and cares are contracted and trivial; and that the proper discharge of her duties demands far less expansion of mind and vigor of intellect than the pursuits of the other sex. This idea has prevailed because women, as a mass, have never been educated with reference to their most important duties; while that portion of their employments which is of least value has been regarded as the chief, if not the sole, concern of a woman. The covering of the body, the convenience of residences, and the gratification of the appetite, have been too much regarded as the chief objects on which her intellectual powers are to be exercised.
But as society gradually shakes off the remnants of barbarism and the intellectual and moral interests of man rise, in estimation, above the merely sensual, a truer estimate is formed of woman's duties, and of the measure of intellect requisite for the proper discharge of them. Let any man of sense and discernment become the member of a large household, in which a well-educated and pious woman is endeavoring systematically to discharge her multiform duties; let him fully comprehend all her cares, difficulties, and perplexities; and it is probable he would coincide in the opinion that no statesman, at the head of a nation's affairs, had more frequent calls for wisdom, firmness, tact, discrimination, prudence, and versatility of talent, than such a woman.
She has a husband, to whose peculiar tastes and habits she must accommodate herself; she has children whose health she must guard, whose physical constitutions she must study and develop, whose temper and habits she must regulate, whose principles she must form, whose pursuits she must guide. She has constantly changing domestics, with all varieties of temper and habits, whom she must govern, instruct, and direct; she is required to regulate the finances of the domestic state, and constantly to adapt expenditures to the means and to the relative claims of each department. She has the direction of the kitchen, where ignorance, forgetfulness, and awkwardness are to be so regulated that the various operations shall each start at the right time, and all be in completeness at the same given hour. She has the claims of society to meet, visits to receive and return, and the duties of hospitality to sustain. She has the poor to relieve; benevolent societies to aid; the schools of her children to inquire and decide about; the care of the sick and the aged; the nursing of infancy; and the endless miscellany of odd items, constantly recurring in a large family.
Surely, it is a pernicious and mistaken idea, that the duties which tax a woman's mind are petty, trivial, or unworthy of the highest grade of intellect and moral worth. Instead of allowing this feeling, every woman should imbibe, from early youth, the impression that she is in training for the discharge of the most important, the most difficult, and the most sacred and interesting duties that can possibly employ the highest intellect. She ought to feel that her station and responsibilities in the great drama of life are second to none, either as viewed by her Maker, or in the estimation of all minds whose judgment is most worthy of respect.
She who is the mother and housekeeper in a large family is the sovereign of an empire, demanding more varied cares, and involving more difficult duties, than are really exacted of her who wears a crown and professedly regulates the interests of the greatest nation on earth.
There is no one thing more necessary to a housekeeper in performing her varied duties, than a habit of system and order; and yet, the peculiarly desultory nature of women's pursuits, and the embarrassments resulting from the state of domestic service in this country, render it very difficult to form such a habit. But it is sometimes the case that women who could and would carry forward a systematic plan of domestic economy do not attempt it, simply from a want of knowledge of the various modes of introducing it. It is with reference to such, that various modes of securing system and order, which the writer has seen adopted, will be pointed out.
A wise economy is nowhere more conspicuous, than in a systematic apportionment of time to different pursuits. There are duties of a religious, intellectual, social, and domestic nature, each having different relative claims on attention. Unless a person has some general plan of apportioning these claims, some will intrench on others, and some, it is probable, will be entirely excluded. Thus, some find religious, social, and domestic duties so numerous, that no time is given to intellectual improvement. Others find either social, or benevolent, or religious interests excluded by the extent and variety of other engagements.
It is wise, therefore, for all persons to devise a systematic plan, which they will at least keep in view, and aim to accomplish; and by which a proper proportion of time shall be secured for all the duties of life.
In forming such a plan, every woman must accommodate herself to the peculiarities of her situation. If she has a large family and a small income, she must devote far more time to the simple duty of providing food and raiment than would be right were she in affluence, and with a small family. It is impossible, therefore, to draw out any general plan, which all can adopt. But there are some general principles, which ought to be the guiding rules, when a woman arranges her domestic employments. These principles are to be based on Christianity, which teaches us to "seek first the kingdom of God," and to deem food, raiment, and the conveniences of life, as of secondary account. Every woman, then, ought to start with the assumption, that the moral and religious interests of her family are of more consequence than any worldly concern, and that, whatever else may be sacrificed, these shall be the leading object, in all her arrangements, in respect to time, money, and attention.
It is also one of the plainest requisitions of Christianity, that we devote some of our time and efforts to the comfort and improvement of others. There is no duty so constantly enforced, both in the Old and New Testament, as that of charity, in dispensing to those who are destitute of the blessings we enjoy. In selecting objects of charity, the same rule applies to others as to ourselves; their moral and religions interests are of the highest moment, and for them, as well as for ourselves, we are to "seek first the kingdom of God."
Another general principle is, that our intellectual and social interests are to be preferred to the mere gratification of taste or appetite. A portion of time, therefore, must be devoted to the cultivation of the intellect and the social affections.
Another is, that the mere gratification of appetite is to be placed last in our estimate; so that, when a question arises as to which shall be sacrificed, some intellectual, moral, or social advantage, or some gratification of sense, we should invariably sacrifice the last.
As health is indispensable to the discharge of every duty, nothing which sacrifices that blessing is to be allowed in order to gain any other advantage or enjoyment. There are emergencies, when it is right to risk health and life, to save ourselves and others from greater evils; but these are exceptions, which do not militate against the general rule. Many persons imagine that, if they violate the laws of health, in order to attend to religious or domestic duties, they are guiltless before God. But such greatly mistake. We directly violate the law, "Thou shalt not kill," when we do what tends to risk or shorten our own life. The life and happiness of all his creatures are dear to our Creator; and he is as much displeased when we injure our own interests, as when we injure those of others. The idea, therefore, that we are excusable if we harm no one but ourselves, is false and pernicious. These, then, are some general principles, to guide a woman in systematizing her duties and pursuits.
The Creator of all things is a Being of perfect system and order; and, to aid us in our duty in this respect, he has divided our time, by a regularly returning day of rest from worldly business. In following this example, the intervening six days maybe subdivided to secure similar benefits. In doing this, a certain portion of time must be given to procure the means of livelihood, and for preparing food, raiment, and dwellings. To these objects, some must devote more, and others less, attention. The remainder of time not necessarily thus employed, might be divided somewhat in this manner: The leisure of two afternoons and evenings could be devoted to religious and benevolent objects, such as religious meetings, charitable associations, school visiting, and attention to the sick and poor. The leisure of two other days might be devoted to intellectual improvement, and the pursuits of taste. The leisure of another day might be devoted to social enjoyments, in making or receiving visits; and that of another, to miscellaneous domestic pursuits, not included in the other particulars.
It is probable that few persons could carry out such an arrangement very strictly; but every one can make a systematic apportionment of time, and at least aim at accomplishing it; and they can also compare with such a general outline, the time which they actually devote to these different objects, for the purpose of modifying any mistaken proportions.
Without attempting any such systematic employment of time, and carrying it out, so far as they can control circumstances, most women are rather driven along by the daily occurrences of life; so that, instead of being the intelligent regulators of their own time, they are the mere sport of circumstances. There is nothing which so distinctly marks the difference between weak and strong minds as the question, whether they control circumstances or circumstances control them.
It is very much to be feared, that the apportionment of time actually made by most women exactly inverts the order required by reason and Christianity. Thus, the furnishing a needless variety of food, the conveniences of dwellings, and the adornments of dress, often take a larger portion of time than is given to any other object. Next after this, comes intellectual improvement; and, last of all, benevolence and religion.
It may be urged, that it is indispensable for most persons to give more time to earn a livelihood, and to prepare food, raiment, and dwellings, than, to any other object. But it may be asked, how much of the time, devoted to these objects, is employed in preparing varieties of food not necessary, but rather injurious, and how much is spent for those parts of dress and furniture not indispensable, and merely ornamental? Let a woman subtract from her domestic employments all the time given to pursuits which are of no use, except as they gratify a taste for ornament, or minister increased varieties to tempt the appetite, and she will find that much which she calls "domestic duty," and which prevents her attention to intellectual, benevolent, and religious objects, should be called by a very different name.
No woman has a right to give up attention to the higher interests of herself and others, for the ornaments of person or the gratification of the palate. To a certain extent, these lower objects are lawful and desirable; but when they intrude on nobler interests, they become selfish and degrading. Every woman, then, when employing her hands in ornamenting her person, her children, or her house, ought to calculate whether she has devoted as much time to the really more important wants of herself and others. If she has not, she may know that she is doing wrong, and that her system for apportioning her time and pursuits should be altered.
Some persons endeavor to systematize their pursuits by apportioning them to particular hours of each day. For example, a certain period before breakfast, is given to devotional duties; after breakfast, certain hours are devoted to exercise and domestic employments; other hours, to sewing, or reading, or visiting; and others, to benevolent duties. But in most cases, it is more difficult to systematize the hours of each day, than it is to secure some regular division of the week.
In regard to the minutia of family work, the writer has known the following methods to be adopted. Monday, with some of the best housekeepers, is devoted to preparing for the labors of the week. Any extra cooking, the purchasing of articles to be used during the week, the assorting of clothes for the wash, and mending such as would otherwise be injured—these, and similar items, belong to this day. Tuesday is devoted to washing, and Wednesday to ironing. On Thursday, the ironing is finished off, the clothes are folded and put away, and all articles which need mending are put in the mending-basket, and attended to. Friday is devoted to sweeping and house-cleaning. On Saturday, and especially the last Saturday of every month, every department is put in order; the casters and table furniture are regulated, the pantry and cellar inspected, the trunks, drawers, and closets arranged, and every thing about the house put in order for Sunday. By this regular recurrence of a particular time for inspecting every thing, nothing is forgotten till ruined by neglect. Another mode of systematizing relates to providing proper supplies of conveniences, and proper places in which to keep them. Thus, some ladies keep a large closet, in which are placed the tubs, pails, dippers, soap-dishes, starch, blueing, clothes-lines, clothes-pins, and every other article used in washing; and in the same, or another place, is kept every convenience for ironing. In the sewing department, a trunk, with suitable partitions, is provided, in which are placed, each in its proper place, white thread of all sizes, colored thread, yarns for mending, colored and black sewing-silks and twist, tapes and bobbins of all sizes, white and colored welting-cords, silk braids and cords, needles of all sizes, papers of pins, remnants of linen and colored cambric, a supply of all kinds of buttons used in the family, black and white hooks and eyes, a yard measure, and all the patterns used in cutting and fitting. These are done up in separate parcels, and labeled. In another trunk, or in a piece-bag, such as has been previously described, are kept all pieces used in mending, arranged in order. A trunk, like the first mentioned, will save many steps, and often much time and perplexity; while by purchasing articles thus by the quantity, they come much cheaper than if bought in little portions as they are wanted. Such a trunk should be kept locked, and a smaller supply for current use retained in a work-basket.
A full supply of all conveniences in the kitchen and cellar, and a place appointed for each article, very much facilitate domestic labor. For want of this, much vexation and loss of time is occasioned while seeking vessels in use, or in cleansing those employed by different persons for various purposes. It would be far better for a lady to give up some expensive article in the parlor, and apply the money thus saved for kitchen conveniences, than to have a stinted supply where the most labor is to be performed, If our countrywomen would devote more to comfort and convenience, and less to show, it would be a great improvement. Expensive mirrors and pier-tables in the parlor, and an unpainted, gloomy, ill-furnished kitchen, not unfrequently are found under the same roof.
Another important item in systematic economy is, the apportioning of regular employment to the various members of a family. If a housekeeper can secure the cooperation of all her family, she will find that "many hands make light work." There is no greater mistake than in bringing up children to feel that they must be taken care of, and waited on by others, without any corresponding obligations on their part. The extent to which young children can be made useful in a family would seem surprising to those who have never seen a systematic and regular plan for utilizing their services. The writer has been in a family where a little girl, of eight or nine years of age, washed and dressed herself and young brother, and made their small beds, before breakfast; set and cleared all the tables for meals, with a little help from a grown person in moving tables and spreading cloths; while all the dusting of parlors and chambers was also neatly performed by her. A brother of ten years old brought in and piled all the wood used in the kitchen and parlor, brushed the boots and shoes, went on errands, and took all the care of the poultry. They were children whose parents could afford to hire servants to do this, but who chose to have their children grow up healthy and industrious, while proper instruction, system, and encouragement made these services rather a pleasure than otherwise, to the children.
Some parents pay their children for such services; but this is hazardous, as tending to make them feel that they are not bound to be helpful without pay, and also as tending to produce a hoarding, money-making spirit. But where children have no hoarding propensities, and need to acquire a sense of the value of property, it may be well to let them earn money for some extra services rather as a favor. When this is done, they should be taught to spend it for others, as well as for themselves; and in this way, a generous and liberal spirit will be cultivated.
There are some mothers who take pains to teach their boys most of the domestic arts which their sisters learn. The writer has seen boys mending their own garments and aiding their mother or sisters in the kitchen, with great skill and adroitness; and, at an early age, they usually very much relish joining in such occupations. The sons of such mothers, in their college life, or in roaming about the world, or in nursing a sick wife or infant, find occasion to bless the forethought and kindness which prepared them for such emergencies. Few things are in worse taste than for a man needlessly to busy himself in women's work; and yet a man never appears in a more interesting attitude than when, by skill in such matters, he can save a mother or wife from care and suffering. The more a boy is taught to use his hands, in every variety of domestic employment, the more his faculties, both of mind and body, are developed; for mechanical pursuits exercise the intellect as well as the hands. The early training of New-England boys, in which they turn their hand to almost every thing, is one great reason of the quick perceptions, versatility of mind, and mechanical skill, for which that portion of our countrymen is distinguished.
It is equally important that young girls should be taught to do some species of handicraft that generally is done by men, and especially with reference to the frequent emigration to new territories where well-trained mechanics are scarce. To hang wall-paper, repair locks, glaze windows, and mend various household articles, requires a skill in the use of tools which every young girl should acquire. If she never has any occasion to apply this knowledge and skill by her own hands, she will often find it needful in directing and superintending incompetent workmen.
The writer has known one mode of systematizing the aid of the older children in a family, which, in some cases of very large families, it may be well to imitate. In the case referred to, when the oldest daughter was eight or nine years old, an infant sister was given to her, as her special charge. She tended it, made and mended its clothes, taught it to read, and was its nurse and guardian, through all its childhood. Another infant was given to the next daughter, and thus the children were all paired in this interesting relation. In addition to the relief thus afforded to the mother, the elder children, were in this way qualified for their future domestic relations, and both older and younger bound to each other by peculiar ties of tenderness and gratitude.
In offering these examples of various modes of systematizing, one suggestion may be worthy of attention. It is not unfrequently the case, that ladies, who find themselves cumbered with oppressive cares, after reading remarks on the benefits of system, immediately commence the task of arranging their pursuits, with great vigor and hope. They divide the day into regular periods, and give each hour its duty; they systematize their work, and endeavor to bring every thing into a regular routine. But, in a short time, they find themselves baffled, discouraged, and disheartened, and finally relapse into their former desultory ways, in a sort of resigned despair.
The difficulty, in such cases, is, that they attempt too much at a time. There is nothing which so much depends upon habit, as a systematic mode of performing duty; and where no such habit has been formed, it is impossible for a novice to start, at once, into a universal mode of systematizing, which none but an adept could carry through. The only way for such persons is to begin with a little at a time. Let them select some three or four things, and resolutely attempt to conquer at these points. In time, a habit will be formed, of doing a few things at regular periods, and in a systematic way. Then it will be easy to add a few more; and thus, by a gradual process, the object can be secured, which it would be vain to attempt by a more summary course.
Early rising is almost an indispensable condition to success, in such an effort; but where a woman lacks either the health or the energy to secure a period for devotional duties before breakfast, let her select that hour of the day in which she will be least liable to interruption, and let her then seek strength and wisdom from the only true Source. At this time, let her take a pen, and make a list of all the things which she considers as duties. Then, let a calculation be made, whether there be time enough, in the day or the week, for all these duties. If there be not, let the least important be stricken from the list, as not being duties, and therefore to be omitted. In doing this, let a woman remember that, though "what we shall eat, and what we shall think, and wherewithal we shall be clothed," are matters requiring due attention, they are very apt to obtain a wrong relative importance, while intellectual, social, and moral interests receive too little regard.
In this country, eating, dressing, and household furniture and ornaments, take far too large a place in the estimate of relative importance; and it is probable that most women could modify their views and practice, so as to come nearer to the Saviour's requirements. No woman has a right to put a stitch of ornament on any article of dress or furniture, or to provide one superfluity in food, until she is sure she can secure time for all her social, intellectual benevolent, and religions duties. If a woman will take the trouble to make such a calculation as this, she will usually find that she has time enough to perform all her duties easily and well.
It is impossible for a conscientious woman to secure that peaceful mind and cheerful enjoyment of life which all should seek, who is constantly finding her duties jarring with each other, and much remaining undone, which she feels that she ought to do. In consequence of this, there will be a secret uneasiness, which will throw a shade over the whole current of life, never to be removed, till she so efficiently defines and regulates her duties that she can fulfill them all.
And here the writer would urge upon young ladies the importance of forming habits of system, while unembarrassed with those multiplied cares which will make the task so much, more difficult and hopeless. Every young lady can systematize her pursuits, to a certain extent. She can have a particular day for mending her wardrobe, and for arranging her trunks, closets, and drawers. She can keep her work-basket, her desk at school, and all her other conveniences, in their proper places, and in regular order. She can have regular periods for reading, walking, visiting, study, and domestic pursuits. And by following this method in youth, she will form a taste for regularity and a habit of system, which will prove a blessing to her through life.
GIVING IN CHARITY.
It is probable that there is no point of duty whereon conscientious persons differ more in opinion, or where they find it more difficult to form discriminating and decided views, than on the matter of charity. That we are bound to give some of our time, money, and efforts, to relieve the destitute, all allow. But, as to how much we are to give, and on whom our charities shall be bestowed, many a reflecting mind has been at a loss. Yet it seems very desirable that, in reference to a duty so constantly and so strenuously urged by the Supreme Ruler, we should be able so to fix metes and bounds, as to keep a conscience void of offense, and to free the mind from disquieting fears of deficiency.
The writer has found no other topic of investigation so beset with difficulty, and so absolutely without the range of definite rules which can apply to all, in all circumstances. But on this, as on previous topics, there seem to be general principles, by the aid of which any candid mind, sincerely desirous of obeying the commands of Christ, however much self-denial may be involved, can arrive at definite conclusions as to its own individual obligations; so that when these are fulfilled, the mind may be at peace.
But for a mind that is worldly, living mainly to seek its own pleasures instead of living to please God, no principles can be so fixed as not to leave a ready escape from all obligation. Such minds, either by indolence (and consequent ignorance) or by sophistry, will convince themselves that a life of engrossing self-indulgence, with perhaps the gift of a few dollars and a few hours of time, may suffice to fulfill the requisitions of the Eternal Judge.
For such minds, no reasonings will avail, till the heart is so changed that to learn the will and follow the example of Jesus Christ become the leading objects of interest and effort. It is to aid those who profess to possess this temper of mind that the following suggestions are offered.
The first consideration which gives definiteness to this subject is a correct view of the object for which we are placed in this world. A great many, even of professed Christians, seem to be acting on the supposition that the object of life is to secure as ranch as possible of all the various enjoyments placed within reach. Not so teaches reason or revelation. From these we learn that, though the happiness of his creatures is the end for which God created and sustains them, yet this happiness depends not on the various modes of gratification put within our reach, but mainly on character. A man may possess all the resources for enjoyment which this world can afford, and yet feel that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit," and that he is supremely wretched. Another may be in want of all things, and yet possess that living spring of benevolence, faith, and hope, which will make an Eden of the darkest prison.
In order to be perfectly happy, man must attain that character which Christ exhibited; and the nearer he approaches it, the more will happiness reign in his breast.
But what was the grand peculiarity of the character of Christ? It was self-denying benevolence. He came not to "seek his own;" He "went about doing good," and this was his "meat and drink;" that is, it was this which sustained the health and life of his mind, as food and drink sustain the health and life of the body. Now, the mind of man is so made that it can gradually be transformed into the same likeness. A selfish being, who, for a whole life, has been nourishing habits of indolent self-indulgence, can, by taking Christ as his example, by communion with him, and by daily striving to imitate his character and conduct, form such a temper of mind that "doing good" will become the chief and highest source of enjoyment. And this heavenly principle will grow stronger and stronger, until self-denial loses the more painful part of its character; and then, living to make happiness will be so delightful and absorbing a pursuit, that all exertions, regarded as the means to this end, will be like the joyous efforts of men when they strive for a prize or a crown, with the full hope of success.
In this view of the subject, efforts and self-denial for the good of others are to be regarded not merely as duties enjoined for the benefit of others, but as the moral training indispensable to the formation of that character on which depends our own happiness. This view exhibits the full meaning of the Saviour's declaration, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" He had before taught that the kingdom of heaven consisted not in such enjoyments as the worldly seek, but in the temper of self-denying benevolence, like his own; and as the rich have far greater temptations to indolent self-indulgence, they are far less likely to acquire this temper than those who, by limited means, are inured to some degree of self-denial.
But on this point, one important distinction needs to be made; and that is, between the self-denial which has no other aim than mere self-mortification, and that which is exercised to secure greater good to ourselves and others. The first is the foundation of monasticism, penances, and all other forms of asceticism; the latter, only, is that which Christianity requires.
A second consideration, which may give definiteness to this subject, is, that the formation of a perfect character involves, not the extermination of any principles of our nature, but rather the regulating of them, according to the rules of reason and religion; so that the lower propensities shall always be kept subordinate to nobler principles. Thus we are not to aim at destroying our appetites, or at needlessly denying them, but rather so to regulate them that they shall best secure the objects for which they were implanted. We are not to annihilate the love of praise and admiration; but so to control it that the favor of God shall be regarded more than the estimation of men. We are not to extirpate the principle of curiosity, which leads us to acquire knowledge; but so to direct it, that all our acquisitions shall be useful and not frivolous or injurious. And thus with all the principles of the mind: God has implanted no desires in our constitution which are evil and pernicious. On the contrary, all our constitutional propensities, either of mind or body, he designed we should gratify, whenever no evils would thence result, either to ourselves or others. Such passions as envy, selfish ambition, contemptuous pride, revenge, and hatred, are to be exterminated; for they are either excesses or excrescences, not created by God, but rather the result of our own neglect to form habits of benevolence and self-control.
In deciding the rules of our conduct, therefore, we are ever to bear in mind that the development of the nobler principles, and the subjugation of inferior propensities to them, is to be the main object of effort both for ourselves and for others. And in conformity with this, in all our plans we are to place religious and moral interests as first in estimation, our social and intellectual interests next, and our physical gratifications as subordinate to all.
A third consideration is that, though the means for sustaining life and health are to be regarded as necessaries, without which no other duties can be performed, yet a very large portion of the time spent by most persons in easy circumstances for food, raiment, and dwellings, is for mere superfluities; which are right when they do not involve the sacrifice of higher interests, and wrong when they do. Life and health can be sustained in the humblest dwellings, with the plainest dress, and the simplest food; and, after taking from our means what is necessary for life and health, the remainder is to be so divided, that the larger portion shall be given to supply the moral and intellectual wants of ourselves and others, together with the physical requirements of the destitute, and the smaller share to procure those additional gratifications of taste and appetite which are desirable but not indispensable. Mankind, thus far, have never made this apportionment of their means; although, just as fast as they have risen from a savage state, mere physical wants have been made, to an increasing extent, subordinate to higher objects.
Another very important consideration is that, in urging the duty of charity and the prior claims of moral and religious objects, no rule of duty should be maintained which it would not be right and wise for all to follow. And we are to test the wisdom of any general rule by inquiring what would be the result if all mankind should practice according to it. In view of this, we are enabled to judge of the correctness of those who maintain that, to be consistent, men believing in the perils of all those of our race who are not brought under the influence of the Christian system should give up not merely the elegancies but all the superfluities of life, and devote the whole of their means not indispensable to life and health to the propagation of Christianity.
But if this is the duty of any, it is the duty of all; and we are to inquire what would be the result, if all conscientious persons gave up the use of all superfluities. Suppose that two millions of the people of the United States were conscientious persons, and relinquished the use of every thing not absolutely necessary to life and health. Besides reducing the education of the people in all the higher walks of intellectual, social, and even moral development, to very narrow limits, it would instantly throw out of employment one half of the whole community. The writers, book-makers, manufacturers, mechanics, merchants agriculturists, and all the agencies they employ, would be beggared, and one half of those not reduced to poverty would be obliged to spend all their extra means in-simply supplying necessaries to the other half. The use of superfluities, therefore, to a certain extent, is as indispensable to promote industry, virtue, and religion, as any direct giving of money or time; and it is owing entirely to a want of reflection and of comprehensive views, that any men ever make so great a mistake as is here exhibited.
Instead, then, of urging a rule of duty which is at once irrational and impracticable, there is another course, which commends itself to the understandings of all. For whatever may be the practice of intelligent men, they universally concede the principle, that our physical gratifications should always be made subordinate to social, intellectual, and moral advantages. And all that is required for the advancement of our whole race to the most perfect state of society is, simply, that men should act in agreement with this principle. And if only a very small portion of the most intelligent of our race should act according to this rule, under the control of Christian benevolence, the immense supplies furnished for the general good would be far beyond what any would imagine who had never made any calculations on the subject. In this nation alone, suppose the one million and more of professed followers of Christ should give a larger portion of their means for the social, intellectual, and moral wants of mankind, than for the superfluities that minister to their own taste, convenience, and appetite; it would be enough to furnish all the schools, colleges, Bibles, ministers, and missionaries, that the whole world could demand; or, at least, it would be far more than properly qualified agents to administer it could employ.
But it may be objected that, though this view in the abstract looks plausible and rational, not one in a thousand can practically adopt it. How few keep any account, at all, of their current expenses! How impossible it is to determine, exactly, what are necessaries and what are superfluities! And in regard to women, how few have the control of an income, so as not to be bound by the wishes of a parent or a husband!
In reference to these difficulties, the first remark is, that we are never under obligations to do what is entirely out of our power; so that those persons who can not regulate their expenses or their charities are under no sort of obligation to attempt it. The second remark is that, when a rule of duty is discovered, if we can not fully attain to it, we are bound to aim at it, and to fulfill it just so far as we can. We have no right to throw it aside because we shall find some difficult cases when we come to apply it. The third remark is, that no person can tell how much can be done, till a faithful trial has been made. If a woman has never kept any accounts, nor attempted to regulate her expenditures by the right rule, nor used her influence with those that control her plans, to secure this object, she has no right to say how much she can or can not do, till after a fair trial has been made.
In attempting such a trial, the following method can be taken. Let a woman, keep an account of all she spends, for herself and her family, for a year, arranging the items under three general heads. Under the first, put all articles of food, raiment, rent, wages, and all conveniences. Under the second, place all sums paid in securing an education, and books, and other intellectual advantages. Under the third head, place all that is spent for benevolence and religion. At the end of the year, the first and largest account will show the mixed items of necessaries and superfluities, which can be arranged so as to gain some sort of idea how much has been spent for superfluities and how much for necessaries. Then, by comparing what is spent for superfluities, with what is spent for intellectual and moral advantages, data will be gained for judging of the past and regulating the future.
Does a woman say she can not do this? let her think whether the offer of a thousand dollars, as a reward-for attempting it one year, would not make her undertake to do it; and if so, let her decide, in her own mind, which is most valuable, a clear conscience, and the approbation of God, in this effort to do his will, or one thousand dollars. And let her do it, with this warning of the Saviour before her eyes—"No man can serve two masters." "Ye can not serve God and Mammon."
Is it objected, How can we decide between superfluities and necessities, in this list? It is replied, that we are not required to judge exactly, in all cases. Our duty is, to use the means in our power to assist us in forming a correct judgment; to seek the divine aid in freeing our minds from indolence and selfishness; and then to judge, as well as we can, in our endeavors rightly to apportion and regulate our expenses. Many persons seem to feel that they are bound to do better than they know how. But God is not so hard a master; and after we have used all proper means to learn the right way, if we then follow it according to our ability, we do wrong to feel misgivings, or to blame ourselves, if results come out differently from what seems desirable.
The results of our actions, alone, can never prove as deserving of blame. For men are often so placed that, owing to lack of intellect or means, it is impossible for them to decide correctly. To use all the means of knowledge within our reach, and then to judge, with a candid and conscientious spirit, is all that God requires; and when we have done this, and the event seems to come out wrong, we should never wish that we had decided otherwise. For this would be the same as wishing that we had not followed the dictates of judgment and conscience. As this is a world designed for discipline and trial, untoward events are never to be construed as indications of the obliquity of our past decisions.
But it is probable that a great portion of the women of this nation can not secure any such systematic mode of regulating their expenses. To such, the writer would propose one inquiry: Can not you calculate how much time and money you spend for what is merely ornamental, and not necessary, for yourself, your children, and your house? Can not you compare this with the time and money you spend for intellectual and benevolent purposes? and will not this show the need of some change? In making this examination, is not this brief rule, deducible from the principles before laid down, the one which should regulate you? Every person does right in spending some portion of time and means in securing the conveniences and adornments of taste; but the amount should never exceed what is spent in securing our own moral and intellectual improvement, nor what is spent in benevolent efforts to supply the physical and moral wants of our fellow-men.
In making an examination on this subject, it is sometimes the case that a woman will count among the necessaries of life all the various modes of adorning the person or house, practiced in the circle in which she moves; and, after enumerating the many duties which demand attention, counting these as a part, she will come to the conclusion that she has no time, and but little money, to devote to personal improvement or to benevolent enterprises. This surely is not in agreement with the requirements of the Saviour, who calls on us to seek for others, as well as ourselves, first of all, "the kingdom of God, and his righteousness."
In order to act in accordance with the rule here presented, it is true that many would be obliged to give up the idea of conforming to the notions and customs of those with whom they associate, and compelled to adopt the maxim, "Be not conformed to this world." In many cases it would involve an entire change in the style of living. And the writer has the happiness of knowing more cases than one, where persons who have come to similar views on this subject, have given up large and expensive establishments, disposed of their carriages, dismissed a portion of their domestics, and modified all their expenditures, that they might keep a pure conscience, and regulate their charities more according to the requirements of Christianity. And there are persons, well known in the religious world, who save themselves all labor of minute calculation, by devoting so large a portion of their time and means to benevolent objects, that they find no difficulty in knowing that they give more for religious, benevolent, and intellectual purposes than for superfluities.
In deciding what particular objects shall receive our benefactions, there are also general principles to guide us. The first is that presented by our Saviour, when, after urging the great law of benevolence, he was asked, "And who is my neighbor?" His reply, in the parable of "the Good Samaritan," teaches us that any human being whose wants are brought to our knowledge is our neighbor. The wounded man in that parable was not only a stranger, but he belonged to a foreign nation, peculiarly hated; and he had no claim, except that his wants were brought to the knowledge of the wayfaring man. From this we learn that the destitute of all nations become our neighbors, as soon as their wants are brought to our knowledge.
Another general principle is this, that those who are most in need must be relieved in preference to those who are less destitute. On this principle it is, that we think the followers of Christ should give more to supply those who are suffering for want of the bread of eternal life, than for those who are deprived of physical enjoyments. And another reason for this preference is the fact that many who give in charity have made such imperfect advances in civilization and Christianity that the intellectual and moral wants of our race make but a feeble impression on the mind. Relate a pitiful tale of a family reduced to live for weeks on potatoes only, and many a mind would awake to deep sympathy and stretch forth the hand of charity. But describe cases where the immortal mind is pining in stupidity and ignorance, or racked with the fever of baleful passions, and how small the number so elevated in sentiment and so enlarged in their views as to appreciate and sympathize in these far greater misfortunes! The intellectual and moral wants of our fellow-men, therefore, should claim the first place in general Christian attention, both because they are most important, and because they are most neglected; while it should not be forgotten, in giving personal attention to the wants of the poor, that the relief of immediate physical distress, is often the easiest way of touching the moral sensibilities of the destitute.
Another consideration to be borne in mind is that, in this country, there is much less real need of charity in supplying physical necessities than is generally supposed by those who have not learned the more excellent way. This land is so abundant in supplies, and labor is in such demand, that every healthy person can earn a comfortable support. And if all the poor were instantly made virtuous, it is probable that there would be few physical wants which could not readily be supplied by the immediate friends of each sufferer. The sick, the aged, and the orphan would be the only objects of charity. In this view of the case, the primary effort in relieving the poor should be to furnish them the means of earning their own support, and to supply them with those moral influences which are most effectual in securing virtue and industry.
Another point to be attended to is the importance of maintaining a system of associated charities. There is no point in which the economy of charity has more improved than in the present mode of combining many small contributions, for sustaining enlarged and systematic plans of charity. If all the half-dollars which are now contributed to aid in organized systems of charity were returned to the donors, to be applied by the agency and discretion of each, thousands and thousands of the treasures, now employed to promote the moral and intellectual wants of mankind, would become entirely useless in a democracy like ours, where few are very rich and the majority are in comfortable circumstances, this collecting and dispensing of drops and rills is the mode by which, in imitation of nature, the dews and showers are to distill on parched and desert lands. And every person, while earning a pittance to unite with many more, may be cheered with the consciousness of sustaining a grand system of operations which must have the most decided influence in raising all mankind to that perfect state of society which Christianity is designed to bring about.
Another consideration relates to the indiscriminate bestowal of charity. Persons who have taken pains to inform themselves, and who devote their whole time to dispensing charities, unite in declaring that this is one of the most fruitful sources of indolence, vice, and poverty. From several of these the writer has learned that, by their own personal investigations, they have ascertained that there are large establishments of idle and wicked persons in most of our cities, who associate together to support themselves by every species of imposition. They hire large houses, and live in constant rioting on the means thus obtained. Among them are women who have or who hire the use of infant children; others, who are blind, or maimed, or deformed, or who can adroitly feign such infirmities; and, by these means of exciting pity, and by artful tales of woe, they collect alms, both in city and country, to spend in all manner of gross and guilty indulgences. Meantime many persons, finding themselves often duped by impostors, refuse to give at all; and thus many benefactions are withdrawn, which a wise economy in charity would have secured. For this and other reasons, it is wise and merciful to adopt the general rule, never to give alms till we have had some opportunity of knowing how they will be spent. There are exceptions to this, as to every general rule, which a person of discretion can determine. But the practice so common among benevolent persons, of giving at least a trifle to all who ask, lest perchance they may turn away some who are really sufferers, is one which causes more sin and misery than it cures.
The writer has never known any system for dispensing charity so successful as the one by which a town or city is divided into districts; and each district is committed to the care of two ladies, whose duty it is, to call on each family and leave a book for a child, or do some other deed of neighborly kindness, and make that the occasion for entering into conversation, and learning the situation of all residents in the district. By this method, the ignorant, the vicious, and the poor are discovered, and their physical, intellectual, and moral wants are investigated. In some places where the writer has known this mode pursued, each person retained the same district, year after year, so that every poor family in the place was under the watch and care of some intelligent and benevolent lady, who used all her influence to secure a proper education for the children, to furnish them with suitable reading, to encourage habits of industry and economy, and to secure regular attendance on public religious instruction. Thus, the rich and the poor were brought in contact, in a way advantageous to both parties; and if such a system could be universally adopted, more would be done for the prevention of poverty and vice than all the wealth of the nation could avail for their relief. But this plan can not be successfully carried out, in this manner, unless there is a large proportion of intelligent, benevolent, and self-denying persons, who unite in a systematic plan.
But there is one species of "charity" which needs especial consideration. It is that spirit of kindly love which induces us to refrain from judging of the means and the relative charities of other persons. There have been such indistinct notions, and so many different standards of duty, on this subject, that it is rare for two persons to think exactly alike, in regard to the rule of duty. Each person is bound to inquire and judge for himself, as to his own duty or deficiencies; but as both the resources and the amount of the actual charities of others are beyond our ken, it is as indecorous as it is uncharitable to sit in judgment on their decisions.
ECONOMY OF TIME AND EXPENSES.
The value of time, and our obligation to spend every hour for some useful end, are what few minds properly realize. And those who have the highest sense of their obligations in this respect, sometimes greatly misjudge in their estimate of what are useful and proper modes of employing time. This arises from limited views of the importance of some pursuits, which they would deem frivolous and useless, but which are in reality necessary to preserve the health of body and mind and those social affections which it is very important to cherish. Christianity teaches that, for all the time afforded us, we must give account to God; and that we have no right to waste a single hour. But time which is spent in rest or amusement is often as usefully employed as if it were devoted to labor or devotion. In employing our time, we are to make suitable allowance for sleep, for preparing and taking food, for securing the means of a livelihood, for intellectual improvement, for exercise and amusement, for social enjoyments, and for benevolent and religious duties. And it is the right apportionment of time, to these various duties, which constitutes its true economy.
In deciding respecting the rectitude of our pursuits, we are bound to aim at some practical good, as the ultimate object. With every duty of this life, our benevolent Creator has connected some species of enjoyment, to draw us to perform it. Thus, the palate is gratified, by performing the duty of nourishing our bodies; the principle of curiosity is gratified in pursuing useful knowledge; the desire of approbation is gratified, when we perform general social duties; and every other duty has an alluring enjoyment connected with it. But the great mistake of mankind has consisted in seeking the pleasures connected with these duties, as the sole aim, without reference to the main end that should be held in view, and to which the enjoyment should be made subservient. Thus, men gratify the palate, without reference to the question whether the body is properly nourished: and follow after knowledge, without inquiring whether it ministers to good or evil; and seek amusement without reference to results.
In gratifying the implanted desires of our nature, we are bound so to restrain ourselves, by reason and conscience, as always to seek the main objects of existence—the highest good of ourselves and others; and never to sacrifice this for the mere gratification of our desires. We are to gratify appetite, just so far as is consistent with health and usefulness; and the desire for knowledge, just so far as will enable us to do most good by our influence and efforts; and no farther. We are to seek social intercourse, to that extent which will best promote domestic enjoyment and kindly feelings among neighbors and friends; and we are to pursue exercise and amusement, only so far as will best sustain the vigor of body and mind.
The laws of the Supreme Ruler, when he became the civil as well as the religious Head of the Jewish theocracy, furnish an example which it would be well for all attentively to consider, when forming plans for the apportionment of time and property. To properly estimate this example, it must be borne in mind, that the main object of God was, to set an example of the temporal rewards that follow obedience to the laws of the Creator, and at the same time to prepare religious teachers to extend the true religion to the whole race of man.
Before Christ came, the Jews were not required to go forth to other nations as teachers of religion, nor were the Jewish nation led to obedience by motives of a life to come. To them God was revealed, both as a father and a civil ruler, and obedience to laws relating solely to this life was all that was required. So low were they in the scale of civilization and mental development, that a system which confined them to one spot, as an agricultural people, and prevented their growing very rich, or having extensive commerce with other nations, was indispensable to prevent their relapsing into the low idolatries and vices of the nations around them, while temporal rewards and penalties were more effective than those of a life to come.
The proportion of time and property, which every Jew was required to devote to intellectual, benevolent, and religious purposes, was as follows:
In regard to property, they were required to give one tenth of all their yearly income to support the Levites, the priests, and the religious service. Next, they were required to give the first-fruits of all their corn, wine, oil, and fruits, and the first-born of all their cattle, for the Lord's treasury, to be employed for the priests, the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger. The first-born, also, of their children, were the Lord's, and were to be redeemed by a specified sum, paid into the sacred treasury. Besides this, they were required to bring a free-will offering to God, every time they went up to the three great yearly festivals. In addition to this, regular yearly sacrifices of cattle and fowls were required of each family, and occasional sacrifices for certain sins or ceremonial Impurities. In reaping their fields, they were required to leave unreaped, for the poor, the corners; not to glean their fields, oliveyards, or vineyards; and, if a sheaf was left by mistake, they were not to return for it but leave it for the poor.
One twelfth of the people were set apart, having no landed property, to be priests and teachers; and the other tribes were required to support them liberally.
In regard to the time taken from secular pursuits, for the support of education and religion, an equally liberal amount was demanded. In the first place, one seventh part of their time was taken for the weekly sabbath, when no kind of work was to be done. Then the whole nation were required to meet at the appointed place three times a year, which, including their journeys and stay there, occupied eight weeks, or another seventh part of their time. Then the sabbatical year, when no agricultural labor was to be done, took another seventh of their time from their regular pursuits, as they were an agricultural people. This was the amount of time and property demanded by God, simply to sustain education, religion, and morality within the bounds of one nation. It was promised to this nation and fulfilled by constant miraculous interpositions, that in this life, obedience to God's laws should secure health, peace, prosperity, and long life; while for disobedience was threatened war, pestilence, famine, and all temporal evils. These promises were constantly verified, and in the day of Solomon, when, this nation was most obedient, the whole world was moved with wonder at its wealth and prosperity. But up to this time, no attempt was made by God to govern the Israelites by the rewards and penalties of the world to come.
But "when the fullness of time had come," and the race of man was prepared to receive higher responsibilities, Jesus Christ came and "brought life and immortality to light" with a clearness never before revealed. At the same time was revealed the fatherhood of God, not to the Jews alone, but to the whole human race, and the consequent brotherhood of man; and these revelations in many respects changed the whole standard of duty and obligation.
Christ came as "God manifest in the flesh," to set an example of self-sacrificing love, in rescuing the whole family of man from the dangers of the unseen world, and also to teach and train his disciples through all time to follow his example. And those who conform the most consistently to his teachings and example will aim at a standard of labor and self-denial far beyond that demanded of the Jews.
It is not always that men understand the economy of Providence, in that unequal distribution of property which, even under the most perfect form of government, will always exist. Many, looking at the present state of things, imagine that the rich, if they acted in strict conformity to the law of benevolence, would share all their property with their suffering fellow-men. But such do not take into account the inspired declaration that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth," or, in other words, life is made valuable, not by great possessions, but by such a character as prepares a man to enjoy what he holds. God perceives that human character can be most improved by that kind of discipline which exists when there is something valuable to be gained by industrious efforts. This stimulus to industry could never exist in a community where all are just alike, as it does in a state of society where every man sees possessed by others enjoyments which he desires and may secure by effort and industry. So, in a community where all are alike as to property, there would be no chance to gain that noblest of all attainments, a habit of self-denying benevolence which toils for the good of others, and takes from one's own store to increase the enjoyments of another.
Instead, then, of the stagnation, both of industry and of benevolence, which would follow the universal and equable distribution, of property, some men, by superior advantages of birth, or intellect, or patronage, come into possession of a great amount of capital. With these means they are enabled, by study, reading, and travel, to secure expansion of mind and just views of the relative advantages of moral, intellectual, and physical enjoyments. At the same time, Christianity imposes obligations corresponding with the increase of advantages and means. The rich are not at liberty to spend their treasures chiefly for themselves. Their wealth is given, by God, to be employed for the best good of mankind; and their intellectual advantages are designed, primarily, to enable them to judge correctly in employing their means most wisely for the general good.
Now, suppose a man of wealth inherits ten thousand acres of real estate; it is not his duty to divide it among his poor neighbors and tenants. If he took this course, it is probable that most of them would spend all in thriftless waste and indolence, or in mere physical enjoyments. Instead, then, of thus putting his capital out of his hands, he is bound to retain and so to employ it as to raise his family and his neighbors to such a state of virtue and intelligence that they can secure far more, by their own efforts and industry, than he, by dividing his capital, could bestow upon them.
In this view of the subject, it is manifest that the unequal distribution of property is no evil. The great difficulty is, that so large a portion of those who hold much capital, instead of using their various advantages for the greatest good of those around them, employ them for mere selfish indulgences; thus inflicting as much mischief on themselves as results to others from their culpable neglect. A great portion of the rich seem to be acting on the principle that the more God bestows on them the less are they under obligation to practice any self-denial in fulfilling his benevolent plan of raising our race to intelligence and virtue.
But there are cheering examples of the contrary spirit and prejudice, some of which will be here recorded to influence and encourage others.
A lady of great wealth, high position, and elegant culture, in one of our large cities, hired and furnished a house adjacent to her own, and, securing the aid of another benevolent and cultivated woman, took twelve orphan girls, of different ages, and educated them under their joint care. Not only time and money were given, but love and labor, just as if these were their own children; and as fast as one was provided for, another was taken.
In another city, a young lady with property of her own hired a house and made it a home for homeless and unprotected women, who paid board when they could earn it, and found a refuge when out of employment.
In another city, the wife of one of its richest merchants, living in princely style, took two young girls from the certain road to ruin among the vicious poor. She boarded them with a respectable farmer, and sent them to school, and every week went out, not only to supervise them, but to aid in training them to habits of neatness, industry, and obedience, just as if they were her own children. Next, she hired a large house near the most degraded part of the city, furnished it neatly and with all suitable conveniences to work, and then rented to those among the most degraded whom she could bring to conform to a few simple rules of decency, industry, and benevolence—one of these rules being that they should pay her the rent every Saturday night. To this motley gathering she became chief counselor and friend, quieted their brawls, taught them to aid each other in trouble or sickness, and strove to introduce among them that law of patient love and kindness, illustrated by her own example. The young girls in this tenement she assembled every Saturday at her own house—taught them to sing, heard them recite their Sunday-school lessons, to be sure these were properly learned; taught them to make and mend their own clothing, trimmed their bonnets, and took charge of their Sunday dress, that it might always be in order. Of course, such benevolence drew a stream of ignorance and misery to her door; and so successful was her labor that she hired a second house, and managed it on the same plan. One hot day in August, a friend found her combing the head of a poor, ungainly, foreign girl. She had persuaded a friend to take her from compassion, and she was returned because her head was in such in a state. Finding no one else to do it, the lady herself bravely met the difficulty, and persevered in this daily ministry till the evil was remedied, and the poor girl thus secured a comfortable home and wages.
A young lady of wealth and position, with great musical culture and taste, found among the poor two young girls with fine voices and great musical talent. Gaining her parents' consent, the young lady took one of them home, trained her in music, and saw that her school education was secured, so that when expensive masters and instruments were needed the girl herself earned the money required, as a governess in a family of wealthy friends. Then she aided the sister; and, as the result, one of them is married happily to a man of great wealth, and the other is receiving a large income as a popular musical artist.
Another young girl, educated as a fine musician by her wealthy parents, at the age of sixteen was afflicted with weak eyes and a heart complaint. She strove to solace herself by benevolent ministries. By teaching music to children of wealthy friends she earned the means to relieve and instruct the suffering, ignorant, and poor.
These examples may suffice to show that, even among the most wealthy, abundant modes of self-denying benevolence may be found where there is a heart to seek them.
There is no direction in which a true Christian economy of time and money is more conspicuous than in the style of living adopted in the family state.
Those who build stately mansions, and lay out extensive grounds, and multiply the elegancies of life, to be enjoyed by themselves and a select few, "have their reward" in the enjoyments that end in this life. But those who with, equal means adopt a style that enables them largely to devote time and wealth to the elevation and improvement of their fellow-men, are laying up never-failing treasures in heaven.
HEALTH OF MIND.
There is such an intimate connection between the body and mind that the health of one can not be preserved without a proper care of the other. And it is from a neglect of this principle, that some of the most exemplary and conscientious persons in the world suffer a thousand mental agonies from a diseased state of body, while others ruin the health of the body by neglecting the proper care of the mind.
When the mind is excited by earnest intellectual effort, or by strong passions, the blood rushes to the head and the brain is excited. Sir Astley Cooper records that, in examining the brain of a young man who had lost a portion of his skull, whenever "he was agitated by some opposition to his wishes," "the blood was sent with increased force to his brain," and the pulsations "became frequent and violent." The same effect was produced by any intellectual effort; and the flushed countenance which attends earnest study or strong emotions of interest of any kind, is an external indication of the suffused state of the brain from such causes.
In exhibiting the causes which injure the health of the mind, we shall find them to be partly physical, partly intellectual, and partly moral.
The first cause of mental disease and suffering is not unfrequently in the want of a proper supply of duly oxygenized blood. It has been shown that the blood, in passing through the lungs, is purified by the oxygen of the air combining with the superabundant hydrogen and carbon of the venous blood, thus forming carbonic acid and water, which are expired into the atmosphere. Every pair of lungs is constantly withdrawing from the surrounding atmosphere its healthful principle, and returning one which is injurious to human life.
When, by confinement and this process, the air is deprived of its appropriate supply of oxygen, the purification of the blood is interrupted, and it passes without being properly prepared into the brain, producing languor, restlessness, and inability to exercise the intellect and feelings. Whenever, therefore, persons sleep in a close apartment, or remain for a length of time in a crowded or ill-ventilated room, a most pernicious influence is exerted on the brain, and, through this, on the mind. A person who is often exposed to such influences can never enjoy that elasticity and vigor of mind which is one of the chief indications of its health. This is the reason why all rooms for religious meetings, and all school-rooms and sleeping apartments should be so contrived as to secure a constant supply of fresh air from without. The minister who preaches in a crowded and ill-ventilated apartment loses much of his power to feel and to speak, while the audience are equally reduced in their capability of attending. The teacher who confines children in a close apartment diminishes their ability to study, or to attend to instructions. And the person who habitually sleeps in a close room impairs mental energy in a similar degree. It is not unfrequently the case that depression of spirits and stupor of intellect are occasioned solely by inattention to this subject.
Another cause of mental disease is the excessive exercise of the intellect or feelings. If the eye is taxed beyond its strength by protracted use, its blood-vessels become gorged, and the bloodshot appearance warns of the excess and the need of rest. The brain is affected in a similar manner by excessive use, though the suffering and inflamed organ can not make its appeal to the eye. But there are some indications which ought never to be misunderstood or disregarded. In cases of pupils at school or at college, a diseased state, from over-action, is often manifested by increased clearness of mind, and temporary ease and vigor of mental action. In one instance, known to the writer, a most exemplary and industrious pupil, anxious to improve every hour and ignorant or unmindful of the laws of health, first manifested the diseased state of her brain and mind by demands for more studies, and a sudden and earnest activity in planning modes of improvement for herself and others. When warned of her danger, she protested that she never was better in her life; that she took regular exercise in the open air, went to bed in season, slept soundly, and felt perfectly well; that her mind was never before so bright and clear, and study never so easy and delightful. And at this time, she was on the verge of derangement, from which she was saved only by an entire cessation of all intellectual efforts.