Page images

kind of gross

God has not given him, is as great an offender in this point, though not so scandalously in the eyes of the world, as that man who indulges himself in any intemperance."

The young ladies looking as if they did not comprehend this subject fully, the lady of the manor thus proceeded_“Great mistakes arise, my dear young people, in judging of our own characters, from making comparisons between ourselves and others who, in their different stations, have perhaps not been subjected to those restraints by which we have been preserved from flagrant breaches of the law.

The sins of young women in respectable life, while under the care of parents, are, generally speaking, not of the flagrant and very gross kind which break out among those of the lower classes; though they nevertheless separate them as entirely from that God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil.” (Hab. i. 13.)

Miss Emmeline said, she hoped the lady of the manor would excuse her, if she asked her to explain what she supposed might be the frequent state of mind of

young ladies in decent families, and the particular faults into which she imagined them most liable to fall.

“You of course mean those young people who have not experienced a saving change of character ?”

Miss Emmeline answered, that she did.

The lady of the manor then replied, “ Even in those who we have reason to hope are truly converted to God, the power of indwelling sin is so strong as frequently to render their lives extremely unhappy.-St. Paul thus describes his own feelings and experience on this point. For I know,' says the apostle, that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing : for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good l find not. For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward mon: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my

members.' (Rom. vii. 18—23.)

“ But the greater part of young ladies in England," continued the lady of the manor, “even the daughters of religious families, give no evidence of being converted, and are, I fear, only kept from open and flagrant offences by motives of worldly prudence, family restraint, custom, and shame. I hope, or rather I wish, that in making this assertion I may have judged harshly; but, without censuring any individual, I must give you the result of my own experience, while I proceed to tell you what I have reason to think is the general state of young

female minds in the middle and higher classes of life.

Education, though now much attended to in some particulars, very generally overlooks that one point which I should conceive ought io be the basis of all education; and indeed, without a proper attention to which, all else that we can do, humanly speaking, nust prove utterly ineffectual.”

The young people requested their kind instructress to explain this point: to which she replied “The Almighty, in his dealings with us, when in his infinite mercy he would call a poor sinner from death unto life, begins, for the most part, by humbling the individual to the very dust, breaking down his proud spirit, and emptying him of self, shewing him his own total helplessness, together with his entire dependence on Christ alone. Neither is any spiritual comfort administered to the poor sinner till this preparatory work is effectually accomplished. Iu like manner, the parent who stands in the place of God to his infant offspring, and who may reasonably expect the blessing of the Almighty upon his pious endeavours, must begin the great work of education by endeavouring to lower the natural pride of his little pupils. This

may be done in many cases without harshness; but whether harshness be requisite or not, this point must be laboured; and whatever station the child may occupy, humility must be enforced, and enforced upon Christian principles. All education, however otherwise excellent, which fails in this point, has in my opinion a pernicious tendency; and, humanly speaking, can only produce, at the best, a species of worldly morality, or a mere profession of religion. It was of such characters that we find our Lord speaking with the greatest severity, and even asserting that publicans and harlots should be admitted into the kingdom of heaven before them. (Matt. xxi. 31.)

“ But it appears, that habits of self-denial no further make a part of the child's education, than (as I before said) worldly prudence may require. Children are not taught to consider, that every thing they possess or enjoy is more than they deserve; and that were they dealt with according to their merits, their portion would be endless misery.

“Hence when they grow up-wanting true humility, they consider themselves entitled to many pleasures and distinctions, which they never can enjoy, because their inordinate desires have overstepped the boundaries of their actual possessions and privileges. Home and domestic employments become insipid to them, as falling far short of those airy schemes of happiness which they are in the habit of forming: All improvement ceases ; and their will, instead of being submitted to that of God, is continually rising in opposition to his in eager cravings after that which he has thought fit to deny them. These strong desires, though exercised on things in themselves lawful, do nevertheless become sinful when the Almighty is pleased to deny us what we require, as we may learn from many passages of Scripture. It is not unlawful to eat flesh, as we well know; but when the Children of Israel required it in the wilderness, this thing was laid to their charge as a grievous sin. therefore rest assured, that whenever we desire what our heavenly Father puts out of our reach, we then commit sin, and may be said to indulge the lusts of the flesh.

“Now,” added the lady of the manor, “I have reason to think that in this point, that is, in the want of control over their thoughts and desires, young women are often peculiarly faulty; and that this fault being a secret one, they very frequently indulge themselves in it to a great excess, without being brought to a sense of the extreme depravity from which it flows."

Here one of the young ladies, who had been very attentive to this evening's discourse, remarked, “that she had always thought it impossible to govern her thoughts, and that she supposed as long as she kept from actual

We may

[ocr errors]

sin, she could not be blamed for any thing that passed in her mind.”

• My dear young friend," answered the lady of the manor, “evil thoughts are one of the strongest marks of the depravity of human nature; nevertheless, such is the power of our natural corruption, that even after conversion evil thoughts continually present themselves. But the Christian knows where he may find help to overcome them; and our heavenly Father has promised that no temptation shall assail us but such as we shall be enabled to resist, and that he will with the temptation make us a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. X. 13.) Therefore no excuse can be made for those who deliberately entertain evil thoughts, since the Holy Spirit stands engaged to furnish us with sufficient assistance to overcome this and every other kind of temptation : but, for the most part, young persons neither avail themselves of the assistance offered them by the Holy Spirit, nor even use the common external means of overcoming this sin. It is

very certain that sin can never be mortified nor its influence overcome by any thing short of the divine power of the Holy Spirit, which must therefore be sought by frequent and diligent prayer, as well as by pleading the merits and death of Christ: but our own efforts, although in themselves powerless, must accompany our prayers, while every appointed means must be used for overcoming this plague of the heart, disorderly thoughts."

“We should be much obliged to you, Madam,” said Miss Emmeline, “ if you could lay down any

rules which might assist us in properly regulating our minds; since we cannot look within, without observing there a great many things which may justly be termed extremely wicked.'

“ You will, my dear Miss Emmeline," replied the lady of the manor, “ I trust, bear this in inind: that whatever your exertions may be, you must supplicate the divine blessing upon them. And should you be favoured with success in your endeavours, never forget to give all the glory to God. Having made this observation, I will without hesitation lay before you the rules which I have myself found particularly useful in overcoming this fault.

“ In the first place, to a person who has habitually given way to evil thoughts, I do not in general recommend

much solitude. To a mind in a tolerably healthy state, solitude is often sweet and profitable, but not to a mind diseased in the way of which we are speaking. Any employment which occupies the hands and not the head is on that

very account less eligible for persons in this state: and therefore if needle-work is to be done, I would advise you always at the same time to be repeating or singing hymns, or learning something profitable by heart Avoid all books and persons which give false views of life, and represent its happiness as proceeding from outward circumstances, or depending upon certain external relations of life, such as husbands, wives, children, possessions, honours, beauty, &c. because these things have no necessary connexion with happiness, and only add to it or detract from it in the degree that the blessing of God accompanies or is withheld from them.

“Works of imagination in general are dangerous to persons whose minds are in the state of which we are speaking, particularly such as treat on the subjects of love, beauty, pleasure, and matters of this kind. Such subjects should in general be avoided by young people. Of public amusements I hardly think it necessary to speak, because I consider them all decidedly wrong, very dangerous to young people of every description, and quite out of the question for persons of a more mature age. Such employments as strongly exercise the mind and fatigue the body, having some reasonable end in view, are what I should particularly recommend to persons troubled with evil and discontented thoughts —such, for instance, as the care of children, whether of the poor or of those in higher life; the acquirement of difficult languages, such as the Greek and Hebrew, whereby the student is led to the contemplation of the Scriptures in the original; the study of history; reading, praying with, and instructing the sick: all such employments pursued with earnestness, even to fatigue, would prove a great assistance in bringing the thoughts into a good train.

“The minds of young people in general are active; and those of young females will not be satisfied by the trifling employments in which they are generally engaged, and which from their excessive insipidity frequently drive them to find out for themselves pursuits of a more interesting nature. Hence they are led to look for hap

« EelmineJätka »