Слике страница

and the canker of pride, will be very apt to spoil whatever of excellence nature has bequeathed to them.

Childhood and youth, are periods of life which materially influence all its following periods. Whether these early years be passed in torpid indolence, or in well directed industry, is a point on which greatly depends the worth or the worthlessness of human characters. What man or what woman that has a relish for intellectual pleasure, but can trace that relish down to the days of childhood? Where is the man who guides his affairs with discretion, or the woman that "looketh well to the ways of her household," and yet was not in some measure imbued with industrious and provident dispositions in early life? On the other hand, who that had been treated, till the age of twenty, like an helpless infant, and had every want supplied without being put to either mental or bodily exertions, was ever good for much afterwards? I freely admit indeed that there are some honorable exceptions; but they are like the few exceptions to a well established general rule.

It is the misfortune of high rank and great wealth, that the children of families so distinguished are often treated as helpless till they become so in reality. They must have waiters to do for them a multitude of little things which it would be greatly for their benefit to do for themselves. They must be served with such assiduity as almost to supersede the use of their own limbs. They have feet, but they walk not; hands have they, but they use them not. And are they happy? No: it is of the nature of this kind of training up to render them discontented, peevish and querulous, all their lives, even though fortune should never forsake them. And if they chance to fall into poverty, they are wretched indeed,- -no less incapable than unwilling to earn a livelihood by industry.

But the sum of the mischief would not be near so great if it were confined altogether to families of high rank and great wealth; for these are comparatively very few. It is the ardent desire of aping the stateliness of rank and the pomp of wealth, that occasions the commonness of this perverted education and the mass of wretchedness which follows it.

Madam is a branch of what had been called a good family. The estate is run out, and she is poor and dependent.-She retains, however, some precious relics of former splendor. With these she feeds her vanity. Not unfrequently she boasts, that never in all her life did she defile her hands with labor; and she would swoon at the thought that one of her maiden daughters should descend to the business of a milliner, or that the other should marry a substantial trades


Mrs. has no rich ancestry or great connexions to boast of, and her worldly circumstances are but indifferent; but the darling wish of her heart is the elevation of her children. Wherefore, she toils day and night, gives herself no rest, for the goodly purpose of bringing up her daughters in genteel idleness.

Not a few, but numerous are the instances of those who spontaneously encounter dolorous straits and hardships, merely through the instigation of vanity and pride. Comfortable, if not happy, might they be, if they would only discard these foes to their peace and consumers of their substance. And what makes it the more strange, these same persons, in other respects, are in their sober senses, and some of them not only rational but agreeable; it is only in this one particular that they show marks of insanity.


Of the Proper and Improper, as depending upon the diverse circumstances and ages of life.

THE love of propriety, along with an accurate perception of the difference between the proper and the improper, is an estimable quality in human beings; for though it is not virtue in its best and highest sense, it is virtue's shield and ornament. To woman in particular, it is a pledge of honor and diadem of beauty.

There are women who, without any extraordinary strength of intellect or advantages of education, dis

cover a sort of intuitive or instinctive perception of propriety, on all occasions and under all circumstances-far surpassing, in that particular, most men of even talents and learning. Solomon, with a single stroke of his pencil, has given us the portraiture of such a woman. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Here are blended two characteristic traits, of which, neither would show well by itself. Discretion, unaccompanied with kindness-mere selfish cold hearted discretion, whether found in man or woman, has very little claim to commendation. She is a woman but in name, that has no heart in her bosom. On the other hand, kindness is very liable to error, and even to fatal error, when it lacks the guidance of discretion. Whereas the union of these two qualities, crowned, withal, with that essential requisite, the fear of the Lord-renders female character alike respectable and lovely. A woman of this description, though destitute of the advantages of beauty, youth, wealth, or wit, is an ornament to the human family; while, to her own family, she is one of the first of blessings.

The laws of propriety not only comprise all the laws of morality-for nothing that is immoral can be proper -but they reach to a vast variety of things that, in themselves, are indifferent :—their propriety or impropriety depending on time, place, age, circumstances or cases, without name or number. Far from attempting to explore this boundless field, I shall but mention two articles culled from it.

First, what may be quite proper for some persons, may be very improper for others. For instance, it is proper for the rich, if they choose it, to make the appearance of riches, in their buildings, their furniture, the elegances of their tables, the superior quality of their apparel, or in any lawful way, which their circumstances can well afford. If a rich man make him great works if he build him costly houses-if he plant him fine gardens, furnished with pools of water, "to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees,"—or if he array his household in splendid apparel;-there is no impropriety in all this, provided the clear income of

his estate be fully sufficient to defray these expenses, over what is due to the calls of charity. It is much better than to let his gold and his silver lie and rust in moth-eaten bags; for by giving employment to so many artists and laborers, he encourages and rewards industry, and becomes the prop and support of the industrious poor that are about him.

But-mark the difference-when a man that is not rich, affects the manner of the rich, the impropriety of his conduct is manifest to all but himself; and he is only laughed at for his pains. Would it were an uncommon instance! So it is not. There are thousands of this sort; thousands that are sacrificing the first and essential necessaries of life, and sinking themselves into debt and pitiless poverty; and all for mere show. What a mass of wretchedness and misery might be prevented by a timely cure of this single folly! No kind of fascination is more generally prevalent, and there is scarcely any one that draws after it more ruinous consequences.

Secondly, the other of the two points that I proposed to notice, is, that certain things which are proper at one time of life, are improper at another. In a qualified sense, "to every thing there is season." Childhood is the season for childish things, which, in the succeeding periods of life must be put away. Youth also, is the season for certain things which peculiarly belong to that age. It is the spring time of life; and there is in it a certain undescribable hilarity of look, air and manner, that exactly fits it, but which ill suits the season of old age. A boyish old man, or a girlish old woman, is as unnatural a phenomenon, as the flowers of May in the month of December.

Few things are more difficult than to grow old with a good grace and perhaps the difficulty lies, with a disproportioned weight, upon the female part of our race. To the vainer and more superficial sort, it is bitter as death, to lose the youthful bloom, for which alone they had been admired, and for which they had so much admired themselves. And hence there are to be found many matrons, affecting in dress and manner, the frivolity of girlish years-in spite of obtrusive wrinkles and grizzly locks.

It is far otherwise with the women whose minds and hearts have been properly cultivated and replenished with intellectual and moral treasure, along with the benignant dispositions which pure christianity inspires. The decay of their youthly bloom or personal attractions, is succeeded by self-satisfaction, and the high esteem and respect of all around them.


Of keeping children from the company of children.

HE that formed man, and knew best what was in him, and what he was made for, saw that it was not good that he should be alone. This single line, or sentence, confutes the volumes of glowing declamation in favor of solitude, or total abstraction from the world. To man, the social state is the natural state; it brightens his intellects, expands his heart, strengthens his weakness, and multiplies his enjoyments; whereas habitual solitude tends to narrowness of heart and sourness of temper. Not that it is good to be always in company. That opposite extreme, which so many have run into, is quite as bad as the other. The solitary being who shuns all company, and the empty flutterer who finds no enjoyment out of company, are alike wide of the true mark-which is a due mixture of intervals of well-spent solitude, with the business and duties and enjoyments of social life.

As Zoologists tell us, " It has long been observed that those races of animals which live in societies, and unite their efforts for the attainment of one common end, exhibit a great superiority of intellectual faculties over those which lead a life of solitude and seclusion: and the observation applies equally to the small as to the larger animals; although among the insect tribes the distinction is most strongly marked." It has also been noticed by careful observers, that the gregarious races of animals, in many instances, evidently learn of one another, and so become more sagacious, and more

« ПретходнаНастави »