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perused and pondered at leisure, first without any coinmentary at all, and so indeed for the most part, except where there is a manifest difficulty : in doing which, you should with awful reverence and childlike simplicity lay your minds open to the native impressions of the truth, and to the secret teachings of its Author.' When, in this way, you meet with one or more verses, that strike
peculiar conviction or delight; close the book, revolve them again and again, look up to heaven, and implore the Father of Spirits to write their meaning on your hearts, as “ with the point of a diamond. ” Read nothing more at that time, nothing at least that has not a near relation to the ideas and affections they excite. Give these an easy unstudied vent in prayer. The pleasure and the benefit will be unspeakable. Only suffer not the tincture thereby left upon you, to be lost in the succeeding scenes. Next morning review the same passage ; endeavour to recall the same sentiments, and with your pencil mark it for your future benefit.
A young lady formerly of my acquaintance, who is now reading the character and will of her Creator in the light of the beatific vision used daily to follow this practice. Her bible was infinitely prized by her ; whatever was most excellent in it, she had thought and weighed all over. Its sacred contents were engraven on her soul; or rather her soul was delivered into the mould of it. She lived in innocence and died in triumph.
Is it necessary, my beloved disciples, that I should urge you to the study of a book which, while it tends to make you wise to salvation, is calculated also to convey the most affecting views, and awaken the sublimest sensibilities, on a thousand topics ? A book it certainly is full of entertain
ment as well as instruction, composed by a great diversity of authors, and all of them divinely taught. I think I see them, one after another, presenting for your improvement their respective writings, with an aspect of dignity and sweetness combined, the dignity of truth, and the sweetness of benevolence; both derived from him, who inspired them to be the teachers of mankind, and who, in order to gain the more belief and, veneration, invested many of them with a command over Nature, and a knowledge of Futurity, which none but the God of Nature, and the spirit of Omni. science could impart. I think I hear them severally addressing you, in the name of God, with an authority that can only be equalled by their mildness, on subjects the grandest and most important, in a happy variety of styles, amidst a uniformity of sentiments, and an agreement in facts, which, the multiplicity of them considered, must ever appear truly admirable! What shall I say more ?-I will not desire you to read this book called the Bible, if you can show me another containing so much to inform, impress, and delight reflecting minds, laid together in a manner so extensively adapted to their various turns of understanding, taste, and temper; which people of different and distant countries, through a long succession of ages, have held in só much reverence, and read with so much advantage ; where it is so difficult to determine which are most distinguished, ease and simplicity, or sublimity and force, but where all are so beautifully united; where there is so little to discourage the weakest spirit if docile, and so much to gratify the strongest if candid; where the fancy and the heart, to the intellect and the conscience, are applied to by turns with such familiarity, and yet such majesty ; in fine, where the
frailties, disorders, and distresses of human nature, are all so feelingly laid open, and the remedies which heaven has provided, so tenderly applied. But to proceed :
Of books in Divinity I'do not wish you to read very many. Those in the way of Religious Controversy, as it is called, but which are frequently written in a most irreligious spirit, that is, without any candour or fairness, I do not wish you to read at all. Mere argumentative theology I have never known to improve the temper, or regulate the conduct; but often to hurt both. Happily for you indeed, the female taste very seldom lies in that way ; never, I think, where there is female sweetness. By a good providence you have been taught " the truth as it is * in Jesus.”
Be it your ambition to practise, not to dispute about it. Enjoy your faith in modest silence, and think well of those who differ from you in opinions, if they agree in morals : but learn to despise the futility, while you discourage the impudence, of such as would pretend to talk you out of your religion. Be assured they are often empty, and always worthless. If they attempt it in the style of banter, they offer you an affront. If they affect to seem in earnest, to be sorry for your prejudices, and solicitous to remove them by conversation, and by books which they are ready to lend you ; a hundred to one, but they are actuated by the worsts designs. Flee them my fair pupils, flee them with horror, as tempters and ravagers at the same instant.
By making conscience of sincerely obeying the precepts of the gospel, while you meekly embrace its doctrines, as they appear to you set forth in the scriptures, you will have the witness of its divinity within yourselves. From thence you will be disposed to choose and 10 adhere to those writers, of
whatever communion, that are calculated to make you most in love with
Saviour and your duty. The formal and frigid you will naturally dislike the uncharitable and illiberal you will nobly detest; the trifling and superficial you will very easily con
Those books, how well soever recommended, that even in your gravest hours do not attract and persuade you, (I now suppose you pious,) ye will readily perceive are not the books for you. Such as do both, in a greater or less degree, it is apparent, are adapted to your cast of mind. Those in short will be your favourite authors, whether in verse or prose, whom you find most frequently new and interesting; who present the most pathetic pictures of this world and the next'; who tell you most convincingly what you are, and what you ought to be; who, in a word, seem to address themselves with the greatest power to the spirit of ingenuity, humility, contrition, self-denial, solid virtue, and affectionate devotion.
I take it for granted you attend on the Publie Institutions of religion. The superior regularity of your sex in this respect the men, to say the truth, show very little inclination to dispute. May the women take care to convince them, that it is something more than mere regularity! In the mean time I am sure, that they who perform their first duties, are much more likely to perform their second also, than they who do not.
Let your attendance be more than what, the world calls decent : let it be punctual. She that becomes deficient in punctuality, will soon become indifferent about the whole. Having omitted her duty unnecessarily once, a second, and a third timen she will omit it the fourth with less compunction ; and ere long will be ready to neglect it without any.
It is wonderful, how soon a sense of futurity dies from the soul. Have you ever known it to live, after the Sabbath was grown into contempt. What multitudes have been forced to date their ruin from that period ?
But not to speak of the openly profane, do those sanctify the sabbath to whom it is not a delight; who visit the house of God without preparation, and worship there without devotion ? What shall
many a young woman who passes for good and pious, although she cannot for an hour together behave with sedateness or composure, in the immediate presence of the Most High? That mind must be volatile indeed, which the solemnities of a christian assembly cannot fix for a little. Do we wish you then to disfigure your faces like the Pharisees, to hang your heads like a bulrush. or to practise religious grimace of any kind ? No. Is even the gravest look, or most recollected man: ner, a certain sign of piety? It is not: and yet will you say, that such a look and manner are of no importance on such an occasion ; that they are not naturally suited to it; or that the spirit of piety may very probably dwell in her heart whose countenace and carriage éven on that occasion do not bear the marks of it, who even then cannot restrain the rolling eye, forget the conscious air, or leave the fluttering demeanour?
Believe me, ladies, a different behaviour would appear much more becoming. Men of sense and sobriety would entertain a much better opinion of your principles ; nor would it be any disadvantage to your persons. Never perhaps does a fine woman strike more deeply, than when composed into pious recollection, and possessed with the noblest considerations, ishe assumes, without knowing it,