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The Elements of Character by Mary G. Chandler

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"An exclusively intellectual education leads, by a very obvious process,
to hard-heartedness and the contempt of all moral influences. An
exclusively moral education tends to fatuity by the over-excitement of
the sensibilities. An exclusively religious education ends in
insanity, if it do not take a directly opposite course and lead to







"We have been taught, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or
unintentionally, to seek rather what virtue gives than what virtue is;
the reward rather than the service, the felicity rather than the life,
the dowry, let me say, rather than the bride."--T.T. STONE.

"His practice was of a more divine extraction, drawn from the word of
God, and wrought up by the assistance of his Spirit; therefore, in the
head of all his virtues I shall set that which was the head and spring
of them all, his Christianity; for this alone is the true royal blood
that runs through the whole body of virtue, and every pretender to that
glorious family, who has no tincture of it, is an impostor. This is that
same fountain which baptizeth all the gentle virtues that so immortalize
the names of the old philosophers; herein they are regenerated, and take
a new name and nature. Dug up in the wilderness of nature, and dipped
in this living spring, they are planted and flourish in the paradise of
God. By Christianity I intend that universal habit of grace which is
wrought in a soul by the regenerating Spirit of God, whereby the whole
creature is resigned up into the divine will and love, and all its
actions directed to the obedience and glory of its Maker."--MEMOIRS OF

* * * * *

The weakness and helplessness of humanity, in relation to the fortunes
of this life, have been a favorite theme with philosophers and teachers
ever since the world began; and every term expressive of all that is
uncertain, insubstantial, and unstable has been exhausted in describing
the feebleness of man's power to retain in possession the good things of
this life, or even life itself. However firmly the hand of man may seem
to grasp power, reputation, or wealth; however numerous may be the band
of children or friends that surrounds him, he has no certainty that he
may not die friendless and a pauper. In fact, the most brilliant success
in life seems sometimes to be permitted only that it may make the
darkness of succeeding reverses the more profound.

Weak and helpless as we may be in the affairs of this life, there is,
however, one thing over which we have entire control. Riches may take
to themselves wings, though honest industry exert its best efforts to
acquire and retain them; power is taken away from hands that seek to
use it only for the good of those they govern; reputation may become
tarnished, though virtue be without spot; health may vanish, though its
laws, so far as we understand them, be strictly obeyed; but there is one
thing left which misfortune cannot touch, which God is ever seeking to
aid us in building up, and over which he permits us to hold absolute
control; and this is Character. For this, and for this alone, we are
entirely responsible. We may fail in all else, let our endeavors be
earnest and patient as they may; but all other failures touch us only in
our external lives. If we have used our best endeavors to attain success
in the pursuit of temporal objects, we are not responsible though we
fail. But if we do not succeed in attaining true health and wealth
and power of Character, the responsibility is all our own; and the
consequences of our failure are not bounded by the shores of time, but
stretch onward through the limitless regions of eternity. If we strive
for this, success is certain, for the Lord works with us to will and to
do. If we do not strive, it were better for us that we had never been

Character is all we can take with us when we leave this world. Fortune,
learning, reputation, power, must all be left behind us in the region of
material things; but Character, the spiritual substance of our being,
abides with us for ever. According as the possessions of this world have
aided in building up Character,--forming it to the divine or to the
infernal image,--they have been cursings or blessings to the soul.

Before we can understand how Character is to be built up, we must come
to a distinct faith in its reality; we must learn to feel that it is
more real than anything else that we possess; for surely that which is
eternal is more real than that which is merely temporal; it may, indeed,
be doubted whether that which is merely temporal has any just claim to
be called real.

Many persons confound reputation with Character, and believe themselves
to be striving for the reality of the one, when the fantasy of the other
alone stimulates their desires. Reputation is the opinion entertained of
us by our fellow- beings, while Character is that which we really are.
When we labor to gain reputation, we are not even taking a first step
toward the acquisition of Character, but only putting on coverings over
that which is, and protecting it against improvement. As well may we
strive to be virtuous by thinking of the reward of heaven, as to build
up our Characters by thinking of the opinions of men. The cases are
precisely parallel. In each we are thinking of the pay as something
apart from the work, while, in fact, the only pay we can have inheres in
the doing of the work. Virtue is its own reward, because its performance
creates the kingdom of heaven within us, and we cannot attain to virtue
until we strive after it for its own sake.

A wisely trained Character never stops to ask, What will society think
of me if I do this thing, or if I leave it undone? The questions by
which it tests the quality of an action are, whether it is just, and
wise, and fitting, when judged by the eternal laws of right; and in
accordance with this judgment will its manifestations ever be made. If
the mind acquires the habit of deliberately asking and answering these
questions in regard to common affairs, it acquires, by degrees, distinct
opinions in relation to life, forming a regular system, in accordance
with which the Character is shaped and built up; and unless this be
done, the Character cannot become consistent and harmonious. It is never
too late to begin to do this; but the earlier in life it is done, the
more readily the character can be conformed to the standard of right
which is thus established. Every year added to life ere this is
attempted, is an added impediment to its performance; and until it is
accomplished, there is no safety for the Character, for each year is
adding additional force to careless or evil habits of thought and
affection, and consequently of external life.

It is not going too far to say, that Character is the only permanent
possession we can have. It is in fact our spiritual body. All other
mental possessions are to the spiritual body only what clothing is to
the natural body,--something put on and taken off as circumstances vary.
Character changes from year to year as we cultivate or neglect it, and
so does the natural body; but these changes of the body are something
very different from the changes of our garments.

There is a transient and a permanent side to all our mental attributes.
Take, for instance, manners, which are the most external of them all. So
far as we habituate ourselves to courtesy and good-breeding because we
shall stand better with the world if we are polite than if we are rude,
we are cultivating a merely external habit, which we shall be likely to
throw off as often as we think it safe to go without it, as we should
an uncomfortably fitting dress; and our manners do not belong to our
Characters any more than our coats belong to our persons. This is the
transient side of manners. If, on the contrary, we are polite from an
inward conviction that politeness is one of the forms of love to the
neighbor, and because we believe that in being polite we are performing
a duty that our neighbor has a right to claim from us, and because
politeness is a trait that we love for its own inherent beauty, our
manners belong to the substance of our Character,--they are not its
garment, but its skin; and this is the permanent side of manners. Such
manners will be ours in death, and afterwards, no less than in life.

In the same way, every personal accomplishment and every mental
acquisition has its transient and its permanent side. So far as we
cultivate them to enrich and to ennoble our natures, to enlarge and to
elevate our understandings, to become wiser, better, and more useful to
our fellow-beings, we are cultivating our Characters,--the spiritual
essence of our being; but these very same acquisitions, when sought from
motives wholly selfish and worldly, are not only as transient as the
clothes we wear, but often as useless as the ornaments of a fashionable
costume. The Character will be poor and famished and cold, however great
the variety of such clothing or ornament we may put on. When the
mind has learned to appreciate the difference between reputation and
Character, between the Seeming and the being, it must next decide, if it
would build up a worthy Character, what it desires this should be; for
to build a Character requires a plan, no less than to build a house. A
deep and broad foundation of sound opinions, believed in with the whole
heart, can alone insure safety to the superstructure. Where such a
foundation is not laid, the Character will possess no architectural
unity,--will have no consistency. Its emotions will be swayed by the
impulses of the moment, instead of being governed by principles of
life. There is nothing reliable in such a Character, for it perpetually
contradicts itself. Its powers, instead of acting together, like
well-trained soldiers, will be ever jostling each other, like a
disorderly mob.

The zeal for special reforms in morality that so strongly characterizes
the present age, whatever may be its utility or its necessity, may not
be without an evil effect upon the training of Character as a whole. The
intense effort after reform in certain particular directions causes many
to forget or to overlook altogether the fact that one virtue is not
enough to make a moral being. It cannot be doubted that the present
surpasses all former ages in its eagerness to put down several of the
most prominent vices to which man is subject; but it may be well to
pause and calmly examine whether a larger promise is not sometimes
uttered by the zeal so actively at work in society, than will probably
be made good by its results.

Nothing can be worthy the name of Reform that is not based on the
Christian religion,--that does not acknowledge the laws of eternal truth
and justice,--that does not find its life in Christian charity, and its
light in Christian truth. The tendency of reform at the present day is
too often to separate itself from religion; for religion cannot work
fast enough to satisfy its haste; cannot, at the end of each year, count
the steps it has advanced in arithmetical numbers. The reformer asks not
always for general growth and advancement in Christian Character; but
demands special evidences, startling results, tangible proofs. These
things all have their value, and the persons who strive for them
doubtless have their reward; but if the kingdom of heaven and its
righteousness were first sought, the good things so fiercely advocated
and labored after by special reformers would be added unto them, as
naturally as flowers and fruits, and the wealth of harvest, are added to
the light and warmth of the advancing year.

Persons who devote themselves to one special branch of reform are apt to
lose the power of appreciating any virtue save that one which they have
selected as their own, and which they seem to love, not so much because
it is _a_ virtue as because it is _their_ virtue. They soon lose all
moral perspective, and resemble him who holds some one object so closely
before his eyes that he can see nothing else, and cannot see that
correctly, while he insists that nothing else exists worthy of being

There is ever an effort going on in the mind of man to find some
substitute for that universal obedience to the laws of faith and charity
which the Scriptures demand; and this temptation adapts itself specially
to every different class of believers. Thus the Jew, if the higher
requisitions of the Law oppress him, thinks to secure himself from its
penalties by the exactness of his ritual observances. The unfaithful
Romanist hopes to atone for a life of sin by devoting his property to
the Church, or to charity, when he dies. The Lutheran and the Calvinist,
when false to the call of duty, think to be forgiven their neglect of
the laws of charity by reason of the liveliness of their faith. So the
modern reformer sometimes seems to suppose himself at liberty to neglect
the cure of any of the vices that he loves, because he fancies that he
may take the kingdom of heaven by violence through his devotion to the
destruction of some special vice which he abhors. Thus temperance is
at times preached by men so intemperate in their zeal, that they are
unwilling to make public addresses on the Sabbath, because on that day
they are trammelled by the constraint of decency, which prevents them
from entering freely into the gross and disgusting details in which they
delight. We have the emancipation of negroes sometimes preached by men
fast bound in fetters of malignity and spiritual pride. We have the
destruction of the ruling influence of the clergy inculcated by men
dogmatic as Spanish Inquisitors. We are taught that the doctrine of the
inspiration of the Scriptures is a mere figment, by those who are firmly
convinced that their own inspiration is perfect and unfailing. The
result of all this is the development of characters as deformed as are
the bodies of victims to hydrocephalus or goitre; while, in painful
contrast to such victims, these morally distorted patients bear about
their deformities in the most conspicuous manner, as if they were rare
beauties. So pagan nations, when they embody their ideas of superhuman
attributes, often construct figures having several heads or hands, or
enormously enlarge some particular member of the frame, fancying that
they thus express ideas of wisdom or power more perfectly than they
could by forming a figure whose parts should all present a symmetrical

It is not that reformers over-estimate the evil of any of the vices
against which they contend; for in the abstract that is impossible; but
that they under-estimate the evil of all other vices in relation to
that one against which they arm themselves. The tree of evil has many
branches, and the trimming away one of them may only make the rest grow
more vigorously. There can be no thorough progress in reform until the
evil of the whole tree is perceived and acknowledged, and the whole
strength is turned to digging it up by the roots.

If a man devote himself actively to the reform of some special vice,
while he at the same time shows himself indifferent to other vices in
himself or in his neighbors, it is evident that his virtue is only
one of seeming. We are told that he who is guilty of breaking one
commandment is guilty of all; because if we disregard any one
commandment of the Lord habitually, persisting in the preference of our
own will to his, it is evident we have no true reverence for him, or
that we act in conformity to his commandments in other points only
because in them our will happens not to run counter to his; and this is
no obedience at all.

If we find men leaving no stone unturned in promoting the cause of
temperance, who do not hesitate to cheat and slander their neighbors,
temperance is no virtue in them; but is the result of love of wealth,
or of property, or of reputation, or of the having no desire for strong
drink; because if a man abstain from intemperance from love to God, he
will abstain from cheating and slandering from love to the neighbor. "He
that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom
he hath not seen?"

So, too, slavery is an enormous evil, and it is very easy for one who
dwells in the free States to cover with opprobrium those who hold
slaves; but if the abolitionist indulges in a violence of invective that
compels one to fear that his heart is burning with hatred towards his
Southern brothers, he stands quite as low in the moral scale as a
_cruel_ slaveholder, and possibly lower than a _kind_ one.

The intemperate, and often malignant, violence with which men preach,
and lead on crusades, against special vices, proves them ignorant of, or
indifferent to, the significance of virtue as a whole. It does not enter
into their hearts to conceive of the beauty of that growth in grace
which results in the complete stature of a man,--that is, of an angel.
In their haste to produce great growth in some particular direction,
they overlook the fact, that in precise proportion to such growth must
be the dwarfing of the other members of the soul. Man was created in the
image and likeness of God; and he becomes truly a man only so far as,
through the grace of God, his whole being voluntarily assumes that
resemblance to the All-perfect for which he was designed. So long as he
makes no effort to become regenerate, after he has arrived at an age to
be at liberty to choose between good and evil, he turns himself more and
more away from God, and becomes less and less like him. While in this
state, he may possess many seeming virtues, may enjoy an untarnished
reputation, may win the love of many friends; but is none the less the
hollow image of that which should be the substance of a man. He is
following only the devices of his own heart,--seeking only the good
things of this world; and there is no virtue in anything that he does,
though he may seem to devote all that he has, or all that he is, to
purposes of charity or reform. Man begins to be truly virtuous,--to be
truly a man, only when, relying on the strength of the Lord to sustain
his endeavors, he begins to avoid sin because it is abhorrent to God,
and to fulfil the commandments because they are the words of God. Then
only he begins to form himself into the symmetrical figure of a man;
and to become perfect after the manner in which the Heavenly Father is

The virtues all lock into each other. They cannot stand alone. Like the
stones of an arch, no one of them can be wanting without making all the
rest insecure. That Character alone is trustworthy in which each virtue
takes its relative position, and all are held in place and confirmed by
the key-stone of a living faith in the great central fact, that there is
a God of infinite goodness and truth, whose commandments are the laws of
life in this world and the world to come.

We cannot religiously obey one commandment unless we desire to obey all,
because in order to obey one religiously we must obey it from reverence
to the divine authority whence it emanates; and when such reverence is
aroused in the heart, it sends the currents of spiritual life to every
member of the spiritual frame, permeating the whole being, and suffering
no disease to remain upon the soul. He, therefore, who devotes himself
to some one object of reform enters upon an undertaking involving one
of the most subtle temptations by which man is ever assailed. Spiritual
pride will lie in wait for him every moment, telling him how clean he is
compared with those against whose vices he is contending; and unless
he is very strong in Christian humility, he will soon learn this
oft-repeated lesson, and will go about the world with the spirit of the
Pharisee's prayer ever in his heart,--"God, I thank thee that I am not
as other men, intemperate, a slaveholder, a contemner of the rights of
the weak. I am not, like many men, contented with fulfilling the common,
every-day duties of life. They are too small for me. I seek to do great
things; and to show my devotion to thee by going armed with all the
power the law allows, to put down vice by force, and drive it from the
face of the earth."

There is a class of men who assume to be, and are received by many as,
philanthropists, who appear to delight in detecting and publishing to
the world the vices of their fellow-beings. They seem to love to hate;
and to find, in vilifying the reputations of those to whom they are
opposed, a pleasure that can be compared to nothing human; but rather to
the joy of a vulture as he gloats over, and rends in pieces, his carrion
prey. While reading or listening to the raging denunciations of such
persons, one is painfully reminded of the spirit that a few generations
ago armed itself with the fagot and the axe in order to destroy those
who held opinions in opposition to the dominant power. The axe and the
fagot have disappeared; but, alas for human nature! the spirit that
delighted in their use has hot wholly passed away; the flame and sword
it uses now are those of malignity and hatred; it does not scorch or
wound the body, but only burns and slays the reputations of those whom
it assails. Forgetting that the Lord has declared, "judgment is mine,"
it hesitates but little to pass its condemnations upon those who differ
from itself; and if Christian commandments are urged against it, it
passes them by with a sneer, or openly sets them aside as too narrow and
imperfect for the present age. While shrinking from the dangers that
lie in wait for those who devote themselves to one idea in morality
or reform, we should beware of falling into the opposite extreme of
indifference on these same points; and should be sure to give them their
full share of consideration. The ultra conservatism, that holds fast to
existing customs and organizations merely because they are old, or from
the love of conservation, is quite as fatuous as the radicalism that
would destroy the old merely because it is old, or from the love of
destruction. He whose conscience knows no higher sanction or restraint
than the Statute Book, is not enough of a Christian to be a good
citizen; while he who does not respect the Statute Book as the palladium
of his country, is not a citizen worthy the name of Christian. While
striving to remain unbiased by the clamor of party, or the violence
of individuals, we should with equal care avoid the opposite error
of looking with approval, or even with indifference, upon usages or
institutions whose only claim to our forbearance lies in laws or popular
opinions whose deformity should be discovered, and whose power should
melt away beneath the light and warmth of a Christian sun.

True religious life consists in doing the will of God every moment of
our lives. His will must bear upon us everywhere and at all times. Where
the mind is absorbed in some one object of reform, this constant
devotion to duty is almost, if not quite, impossible. The mind becomes
so warped in one direction that it loses the habit, and almost loses the
power, of turning in any other. Hence we rarely hear the word _duty_
from the lips of the reformer. He constantly descants upon rights or
wrongs, while duties seem forgotten. Thus we hear perpetually of the
rights or of the wrongs of man or of woman, of the citizen, or of the
criminal, and of the slave; but the duties of these classes seem to have
passed out of sight. Now it is only when all shall fulfil their several
duties that the rights of all can be respected; and if peace on earth,
and good-will towards men are ever to reign, it must be when piety and
charity shall go hand in hand,--when the human race shall unite as one
to fulfil its duties towards God and towards each other.

Violence of every kind springs from a desire to do one's own will.
Egotism is the sure accompaniment of wrath. The love of God never
constrained any man to villify his brother. He who is bent on the
performance of duty,--who desires simply to do the will of God, is firm
as a rock, but never violent. He prays, with the poet,--

"Let not this weak, unknowing hand,
Presume thy bolts to throw;
And deal damnation round the land,
On each I judge thy foe."
He remembers that judgment belongs to God; and that the Lord taught
us to pray, "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
against us"; and surely none can hurl denunciation upon a fellow-sinner
if from his heart he offers that prayer.

Possibly the ground may be taken that we should forgive our own personal
enemies, but not the enemies of the Lord, against whom the reformer
directs his wrath. But is the arm of the Lord shortened that he cannot
avenge his own wrongs? and who among mortals is so pure or so strong
that he may dare to say, the Lord has need of him for a champion?

It is deemed just that a soldier should suffer severe punishment if he
act without orders, taking upon himself the authority of a commanding
officer. How much more is he worthy of condemnation who puts himself
in place of God, and under pretence of doing him service, presumes to
transgress his explicit commands.

We are prone to fancy that when we are fond of talking about any object
we are fond of the object itself; but this by no means follows of
course. We may delight in talking about philanthropy while our hearts
are burning with hatred, or about temperance while intoxicated with
passion, or about abolitionism while we have no respect for the liberty
of those around us, and no comprehension of that liberty wherewith
Christ makes his children free; and all this because we are working from
the blind impulses of an unregenerate spirit. When the spirit becomes
regenerate,--taught of God,--it perceives the unity of virtue, and can
never again regard it as a dismembered fragment. Then it knows, that
to do wrong that good may come of it is striving to cast out Satan by
Beelzebub,--an effort that must surely fail. Then it feels that evil is
really overcome only by good. How different will be the reformatory zeal
of this state of the spirit from that which preceded it. Formerly, no
sooner was the subject of reform mentioned than the neck stiffened
and the head tossed itself backward with the excitement of pride and
combativeness, while the tongue poured forth whatever phrases anger
might suggest. Now, how different is the attitude and expression, as
with words of gentleness and love it strives to draw others to perceive
the beauty of purity and justice. Formerly, the whole effort of the mind
was to compel others to come into agreement with itself; now, it strives
to win them into harmony with God. Once, it believed that indignation
could be righteous; now, it knows that anger and heavenly mindedness
dwell far apart; and, if they approach each other, one must perish.

If we would train character into genuine goodness, we should observe
whether evil in ourselves or others offends us because it is contrary
to our own ideas, or because it is opposed to the will of God. If the
former be the case, we shall find ourselves angry; if the latter, we
shall be sorrowful. No one can be angry from love to God. Anger is
in its very nature egotistic and selfish, and has in it nothing of
holiness. Penitence for sin is ever meek and humble, and so is regret
for the sins of others. The moment we find ourselves angry, either
for our own sins or for the sins of others, we may be sure there is
something wrong in our state, and we should stop at once to analyze
our feelings, and find where the trouble lies. If we do this
conscienciously, we shall be sure to find some selfish or worldly
passion at the root of the matter. We shall find that something else
than love to God excited our indignation.

If we find ourselves indulging, habitually and with satisfaction in any
one sin, we may be sure that we have not true hatred for any sin;
for sin is hateful because it is contrary to the infinite wisdom and
goodness of God. If we abhor it for this reason, we shall abhor all sin;
and if we find ourselves hating some sins and loving others, we may be
sure that we hate those which are repugnant to our own tastes, and love
those which are in conformity with them. Thus our measure of sin is in
ourselves, and not in God; and we are putting ourselves in place of
God,--worshipping the idol self, instead of our Father in heaven.

The Lord was very explicit in his teachings regarding the necessity of
the denial of self; but this is the last thing in which we are willing
to obey him. We profess to be willing and eager to do a great deal of
good; but when conscience tells us that we must do the will of God every
moment of our lives, we turn away with a sorrowful countenance; for
there are many things in which we wish to follow our own wills without
stopping to consult the will of God, and we wish to believe that we can
do this and yet be quite virtuous enough to insure salvation. While the
natural man is strong within us, we are ever striving to serve God and
mammon; but when the spiritual man is born, we are willing to give up
all else and follow the Lord. Then, we feel that we cannot be truly
virtuous, because we are, in some points, very scrupulous, while in
others we are very indifferent; for we perceive that goodness is the
harmonious development of the whole Character into accordance with the
will of God.

So long as we labor for ourselves we shall be, at best, only special
reformers, and cultivators of special virtues; but when we are ready to
deny ourselves, and to do the will of God, all sin will become abhorrent
to us, and we shall grow in grace daily until we become perfected in
that symmetrical form of man, which is the image and likeness of God;
and every faculty of the heart and of the head will then be baptized
into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


"It is this trinity of man,--for man is the image of his God, in whom
is the essential Trinity,--under which his whole character must be

Man being created in the image and likeness of God, we must of necessity
find in him a finite organization corresponding with the infinite
organization of the Creator. In the Infinite Divine Trinity there are
the Divine Goodness or Love, the Divine Truth or Wisdom, and the
Divine Operation or the manifestation of the other two in and upon the
universe: in other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the
human, finite trinity, we have, corresponding with these, Affection,
Understanding, and Use, or external life. Divinity being the embodiment
of infinite order, its parts act in a sequence of absolute perfection;
that is, absolute love by means of absolute wisdom exhibits itself in
absolute use. Speaking with exactness, the word sequence is out of place
in this connection, because with the Divinity, love, wisdom, and
operation are simultaneous; but he has separated them in his ultimate
manifestations, and we are obliged to separate them in our analysis,
in order that they may in any degree come within the compass of human

Man, in his primeval innocence, was a genuine image and likeness of
the All-perfect Divinity; perfect after the same manner, but on a
lower plane. There was then no antagonism between the creature and the
Creator; and the finite naturally and joyfully obeyed the infinite; for
in obedience to the will of the Heavenly Father it found sustenance for
the soul as manifestly as in meat and drink for the body. The progress
of time saw the creature turn from the love of God to the love of
self,--from seeking the truth of God to seeking out its own vain
imaginations, and from performing the orderly uses of a life of charity
to all the disorderly indulgencies of selfish passion. Instead of
worshipping the living God, man now invented idols representing his own
evil passions, and bowed before them in adoring admiration; for the
attributes wherewith he clothed them were fitting forces to stimulate
his progress along the pathway he had chosen, where life was made
hideous by the lowering shadows of rapine and murder.

The first Church, represented by Adam and Eve, is the general type of
every Church that has followed it, and of every unregenerate individual
in those Churches. Instead of looking to God as the source of all
wisdom, there is ever the desire to eat of, or make our own, the fruit
of the tree of knowledge, that we may know of _ourselves_ good from
evil; and that we may do of ourselves what seems to us right; and
instead of penitence for sin and an endeavor after reformation, there is
a striving to conceal our unfaithfulness. The covering assumed by those
who, in Scripture, stand as the parents of mankind, is the perpetual
type of the subterfuges we all invent to hide our disobedience from our
God, from our neighbors, nay, even from ourselves. The primal image and
likeness of God has become so defaced, distorted, and broken, that it is
often hard to find a remnant still testifying to its Divine origin. Let
us rise up from among these shattered fragments, and contemplate for a
while the means of bringing the poor, fallen human nature into harmony
with the divine;--let us develop, if we can, a system that may aid us
in training our faculties, so that the Affections shall be pure, the
Understanding wise, and Life the harmonious exponent of both.

In the attempt to restore our being to its original symmetry, the
intellectual part of the nature must not be cultivated at the expense of
the affectional, nor should the affectional be suffered to run riot with
the intellectual. Love must be wise, and wisdom must be affectionate, or
life will fail of its end. External morality has no reliable foundation
unless it be built on morality of thought and affection. Apart from
these, it is either the result of a happy organization that demands no
disorderly indulgence, or it is the figleaf garment of deceit, put on by
those who strive to seem rather than to be.

In the just training of Character, if we first learn to understand the
capacities and relations of Affection, Thought, and Life, and look
within our own natures until we learn to comprehend how everything
pertaining to our being belongs to one of these departments, we shall
better appreciate the difficulties to be overcome before we shall be
willing to make everything that we do the honest outbirth of everything
that we are. Pretence and hypocrisy, subterfuge and falsehood, will then
disappear, and life will become the adequate expression of symmetrical

The intellectual part of our being may be better understood if divided
into two departments, viz., Thought and Imagination,--the subjective and
the objective. Thought can be lifted up into the Affections, and made
manifest in Life only through the medium of the Imagination. Thought is
at first a pure abstraction, a subjective idea,--something entirely
within the mind, and having no relation to conduct,--a seed sown, but
not germinated; and while it remains thus it has no influence upon the
Affections. If, however, it germinate, the next step in its existence is
to become an objective idea; and now it has lost its abstract quality
and become an image. In its first state it is neither agreeable nor
disagreeable to the mind, but so soon as it takes a distinctive form it
becomes either pleasing or displeasing, and is either cast away and
forgotten, or retained arid expanded by the Affections, whose office it
is to cause Thought to become a vital reality, ready to show itself in
the external life so soon as a fitting occasion calls for its

Thought is like water. Sometimes it glides over the mind as over a
bed of rock; neither softening nor fertilizing; but when it is made
a possible reality by the Imagination, and a vital reality by the
Affections, it is now like a stream, flowing through rich farms and
gardens, fertilizing wherever it comes; and again, like waterfalls,
furnishing power to set ideas in motion, that shall give nutriment and
warmth to the souls of millions.

The Lord, when he would condense religion into its narrowest compass,
commands us to love the Heavenly Father with the whole heart and
soul and mind and strength. Can this signify anything else than that
Affection, Imagination, and Thought, in their whole strength, or brought
down into the ultimates of life, must be consecrated to the Divine
Creator of them all? So St. Paul, when he would sum up the whole
Christian system in a single phrase, exclaims: "Faith, Hope, Charity.
The greatest of these is Charity." Faith here expresses the religion of
Thought, Hope the religion of the Imagination, and Charity the
religion of the Affections, which is greatest of all because it is the
vitalization of the other two.

Every act that we voluntarily perform, whether good or evil, first
entered the mind as an abstract Thought; it was then shaped by the
Imagination until it became a definite idea; next, it was claimed as a
child by the Affections; and lastly, it was by the Affections made to
come out into a use of love or an abuse of hate.

Many thoughts die in the mind without passing through all these stages.
We sometimes hear a sermon that fills our Thoughts as we listen, and yet
we forget it all as we turn away from the church door; for it went no
deeper than our Thoughts. At another time, what we hear goes with us to
our homes, haunts us through the week, and perhaps is made a standard
whereby to measure the virtues or the vices of our neighbors; possibly
even, we try ourselves by its rule, and our consciences are roused to
pierce us with the sharp pang of remorse. All this, however, brings no
change over our lives. Here Thought has passed into Imagination, has
become a reality to the mind; but as yet the Affections do not warm
towards it, and so it dies in the second stage of existence. Yet, again,
we listen to the voice of the preacher, and his words abide in the soul
until they quicken our Affections, and as we muse the fire burns. Then
are our eyes lightened to perceive how all that we have heard may become
realized in life; and warmed by the heavenly flame that has descended
upon our altar, our souls kindle with charity, and we go forth to
realize the hope that is within us in works of angelic use.

This process of the mind is not confined to the religious part of our
being. It goes on perpetually in our intellectual no less than our moral
nature. Our success in using whatever we learn in every department,
the wisdom or the folly of everything we do, whether relating to
intellectual, to religious, or to practical life, depends on the
faithfulness with which we apply these three powers to whatever is
presented to them.

Look in upon the assembled members of a school, of any grade from
primary to collegiate, and you will see one set of pupils with stolid
faces conning their tasks, as if they were indeed tasks in the hardest
sense of the term, and then reciting them word for word, in a monotonous
tone, as if their voices came from automata, and not from living
throats. These are they who study only with their Thoughts, and whose
Imaginations and Affections are untouched by all that passes through
their minds. Scattered among the preceding another class may be found,
with quickly glancing eyes, who seem all alive to everything they
study, who recite with earnest tones, and whose faces are bright with
expression. Here the Imagination is at work, and everything the mind
seizes upon stands there at once a living picture. These are the
brilliant scholars, who carry off all the prizes, and win all
admiration. There is still a third class, of a calmer aspect. Its
members may not shine so brightly, but there is more warmth in their
rays. They will not learn so much nor so rapidly as those of the second
class, but their whole being is permeated by what they know. They are
constantly studying the relations of the things that they learn to each
other and to life; and are endeavoring to form themselves in accordance
with the rationality they thus acquire; for their Affections have
fastened themselves upon it, and it is therefore becoming a part of
their being.

When these three classes of pupils become men and women, and go
forth into the various walks of life, the first, if they attempt any
handicraft, are the botchers and bunglers, who bring little more than
their hands to anything that they do; and who, therefore, do nothing
well. They are the dead weights of society, that must be helped through
life by their more active neighbors. If they are scholars, they are
collectors of facts, which they pile up in their memories as a miser
heaps his gold, for no end but the pleasure of heaping. They make
physicians without resource, lawyers without discernment, preachers who
dole out divinity in its baldest and heaviest forms.

Those of the second class are always better in theory than in practice;
for with them zeal ever runs before knowledge. They will delight in
telling how a thing should be done, but will find it very difficult
to do it themselves. A blacksmith of this class will tell with great
exactness how a horse should be shod, but if trusted to perform that
office, ten to one the poor animal will go limping from his hands. So a
carpenter of the same class will be full of plans and fancies that he
will wish to carry out for the benefit of his employers; but his work,
when completed, though perhaps elegant and ornamental, will probably be
inappropriate in appearance, and not adapted to the use for which it
was intended. From this class come inventors of machines that are never
heard of after they get into the patent-office, schemers and speculators
whose plans end in ruin, boon companions, brilliant talkers, sparkling
orators, elegant and ornate poets who sing blithely for their own day
and generation, preachers and statesmen who are ever led away by Utopian
and millennial dreams; in short, men who may shine while they live, but
are seldom remembered when they die.

The third class are men of mark in whatever walk of life they are found;
--men to be relied upon for whatever they may undertake. They are men
who can produce in Life what their Understandings know and imagine;
or, rather, who know how to select from their stores of Thought and
Imagination whatever may be realized in Life. If they are mechanics,
their work is the best of its kind, and precisely adapted to the use
for which it was intended; if they are machinists, their inventions
are those that ameliorate the condition of society; if merchants or
speculators, they do not run after bubbles; if devoted to intellectual
pursuits, they are divines whose thoughts thrill the souls of men
for centuries, founders of new schools of philosophy, lawgivers, and
statesmen who are remembered with gratitude as the fathers of nations,
poets whose words are destined to live so long as the language in which
they write is spoken,--nay, who shall cause their language to be
studied ages after all who spoke it have passed from the face of the

The women who belong to these several classes are characterized in like
manner, though their more retired lives prevent them from displaying
their traits so conspicuously. Those of the first class are dress-makers
whose work never fits, milliners whose bonnets look as if they were
not intended for the wearers, servants who do nothing rightly unless the
eye of their mistress is upon them, teachers whose pupils are taught
as if they were beings without life or reason; and in their highest
relations, as wives and mothers, they are those with whom nothing goes
as it should, whose daily lives are but a succession of mistakes and
catastrophies, whose husbands never find a comfortable home to which
they may return for repose after a day of toil, whose children are
"dragged up, not brought up."

In the second class are servants who have a quick perception of what is
to be done, and who make all that is directly apparent to the eye
look well, but a closer observation shows many an unswept corner and
neglected duty; dress-makers and milliners whose work is ornamental,
tasteful, and becoming, though the ornamentation is apt to be too great
for the value of the material, and the work will now and then come
in pieces for lack of being thoroughly finished; teachers who infuse
brightness and quickness into their scholars, but whose instructions are
more showy than solid. In their housekeeping they understand "putting
the best foot foremost," and making a great deal of ornament where there
may be but little of anything else; but they lack the practical skill
that makes a housekeeper successful in the essentials that constitute
comfort. They will seek to make their children accomplished ladies and
gentlemen, who will be agreeable in society, rather than well-trained
men and women, capable of meeting the duties and emergencies of life.

The third class of women are the reliable ones, wherever they may be
found. They do everything they attempt well, because there is a sense of
fitness and propriety in them which is disturbed by things badly done,
and which gives them an almost intuitive faith, that if a thing is worth
doing at all, it is worth doing well. They are not eye-servants, but
faithful in all things. Thoroughness pervades whatever they do, in all
departments of life. They are not satisfied with making a dress or a
bonnet that is becoming, unless it is well finished and appropriate.
They are the thorough teachers who are willing to have their schools
examined every day in the year, who seek to know the capacities of their
pupils, and to educate them accordingly. They are the mothers whose
children are obedient and trained for the uses of life no less than for
its pleasures; the wives whose husbands are happy in their homes if they
are capable of being happy anywhere.

When we contemplate these three classes of human beings, we perceive
that only one of them can be said to lead successful lives. Two classes,
and both of them painfully numerous, fail. The question rises to the
mind with fearful solemnity, were they created for this end,--created
to fail? Can we for a single moment believe that a Father of infinite
justice and mercy ever created one individual among his children, an
accountable being, neither insane nor idiotic, and yet so imperfect that
he _must_ fail? Surely it were blasphemy to hold such an act possible.
Infinitely various are the works of his hand in the forms of humanity,
as in every other department of the universe, but even so manifold are
the varieties and degrees of service which he prepares for every one
to do. There is a place and a use for every one, and whoever fails of
finding a place and a use fails, not because he was created incompetent,
but because he refuses to cultivate the powers wherewith he is endowed.
Indolence and selfishness, the moth and rust of Character, are corroding
and devouring the delicate organization of the internal man, which can
retain the wholeness and brightness of its powers only by constant use.
We are weak and useless, not because we were created to be so, but
because we do not listen to the voice of conscience when it tells us to
serve the Lord with _all_ our strength, in the very place where we now
are, and at the very time that now is. It is not because the power of
growth is not in them that our talents do not multiply, but because we
fold them in a napkin of indifference, and bury them in the earth of our
lower nature. Understanding and Affection are within us all, and if they
do not develop into a life of use, into a Character that will fit us for
heaven,--and this is what we should always keep before our minds as the
only genuine success,--it is because we have not striven as we might
and ought.

Understanding and Affection are within us all, differing, not in kind,
but only in degree; and they are constantly at work, involuntarily if we
do not voluntarily assume their control. In the little child they work
as involuntarily as the heart beats and the lungs respire; but so soon
as the child is old enough to begin to know the difference between right
and wrong, the action of these powers should begin to be voluntary;
should begin to be under the guidance of conscience.

Some persons call these powers into voluntary action from motives of
mere worldly wisdom. Every one does so who places some object before
himself, and cultivates his powers with a special view to attain
perfection therein. The pickpocket, the gambler, the housebreaker, must
do it before they can attain skill in their depravity. The worldling
does it who follows an honorable profession with all his heart and soul
and mind and strength, seeking only such rewards as Mammon bestows upon
his votaries. Whether all these are to be successful in attaining the
rewards they seek, is a matter of entire uncertainty; for Providence
permits or withholds worldly success in a way that we cannot anticipate,
nor but imperfectly understand. We may bear the heavy yoke of Mammon
until it wear into the very marrow of our bones, and yet gain nothing
but poverty and disgrace. They, however, who by a voluntary action of
the powers endeavor to become perfected in the stature of Christian men
and women,--who seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness,
using all things of this world only as rounds of that ladder whose
summit is in the heavens, even while its base rests upon the earth, are
sure of the reward they seek; and the yoke that they bear will grow more
light and easy with each revolving year.

There are many persons who seem to belong by turns to each of the three
great classes that have been described. These exercise their powers
involuntarily. They cannot be depended upon, for they are not balanced
Characters. If they happen to like what they are doing, or happen to
feel in the mood of doing it, they will do it well; otherwise, they
do not care how badly their work is performed, if it only can be got
through with. They have not waked to the consciousness that we have no
right to do anything badly, because whenever we do so we impair our own
faculties, and thereby diminish our powers of usefulness; while, if the
act concerns any one beside ourselves,--as almost all acts do,--we are
wronging our neighbor.

Many persons are so fortunate, women especially almost always so, as to
have enough employment placed before them by the circumstances of their
position, without any effort of choice on their part, to occupy their
time, and to train their faculties. Those who are not thus set to work
by circumstance should be governed in the selection of their employment
by their own inclination and talents. What we love to do we can learn
to do well, and our work will then be agreeable to us. Many persons
are governed in the choice of employment for themselves or for their
children by a stronger consideration for what is honorable in the eyes
of the world than by talent or taste. Thence it often results that
persons fail ever to fulfil the duties they have chosen in a way to
be satisfactory to any one beside themselves, perhaps not even to
themselves. If they have sufficient force of Character to do well in
spite of not doing what they like, they are still never so happy as
they would have been had inclination been consulted. Where the heart
is really in the employment, work is not a burden, but a natural and
pleasant exercise of the powers; and it becomes comparatively easy to
serve the Lord with all the strength.

Those who are not constrained to work, should remember that a life of
idleness cannot be a life of innocence; for the idle cannot serve the
Lord. A life that does not cultivate one's own capacities, and aid
either in supplying the wants or cultivating the capacities of some one
beside self, is no preparation for heaven; for the heavenly life is one
of perpetual advance, because of untiring use.

There is no station in life where there is not a constant demand for the
exercise of charity. We cannot be in company an hour with any person
without some such demand presenting itself to us. The daily intercourse
of life places it constantly in our power to make some person more or
less happy than he now is, and accordingly as we may choose between
these two modes of action we are fulfilling or setting aside the law of

No class of human beings bears a more heavy weight of responsibility
than that which is placed beyond the necessity of effort; and there is
none whose position has a stronger tendency to blind it to the calls of
duty. Although every gift bestowed upon us by providence, whether of
mind, body, or estate, is but another talent, for the employment of
which we must be one day called to account, yet these added talents too
often excite in us a feeling of superiority which induces us to demand
that others should minister to us, and causes us to forget that he who
would be greatest must be so by doing more and greater services than
others, and not by receiving them.

Persons whose position places them beyond the need of effort, would do
well to select some special study or employment to occupy and develop
their mental life, and save them from the inanity, ennui, and
selfishness that are sure to follow in the footsteps of idleness.
Poverty of mind is rendered all the more prominent and disgusting if
accompanied by external wealth; and to such a mind wealth is but a means
to folly, if to nothing worse.

Neither wealth nor poverty, neither strength nor weakness, neither
genius nor the want of it, neither ten talents nor one, can excuse any
human being from training his faculties in a way to develop them to the
utmost, and forming them into a symmetrical whole, the type of a true

In the following essays it may seem to the reader that there is
contradiction in treating each power of the mind as though its perfect
training resulted in the upbuilding of a perfect Character; but the
union between these capacities is so intimate that one cannot be rightly
trained unless all the others are trained at the same time. We cannot
think wisely unless we imagine truly, and love rightly, as well as
warmly. We cannot love rightly unless we think justly, and imagine
purely; nor can we imagine purely unless we love that which is pure. We
cannot do all this unless we live out what we think, imagine, and love;
for the inner life always acts narrowly and superficially unless it be
widened and deepened by an efficient external life. What we do must
follow closely in the footsteps of what we know, if we would arrive at
breadth and depth of knowledge. So fast as we put in practice what we
know we shall be able to receive more knowledge. We are told by the Lord
that our knowledge of truth shall be enlarged in proportion as we are
obedient to the divine will. "If any man will do his will, he shall know
of the doctrine."

The Divine attributes act simultaneously and equally always and
everywhere, while the triune manifestation is a merciful adaptation of
these attributes to the comprehension of fallen humanity. Were humanity
truly regenerate, the action of its capacities would be simultaneous
and homogeneous. Even in its present state these capacities are so
interlaced that one cannot act strongly without inducing some action in
the others; just as in the physical frame the brain, the heart, and the
lungs can no one of them act unless all act in some degree; while in
perfect health all act in the fulness of perfect harmony, no one organ
rendering itself prominent by being more full of vitality and activity
than another. Disease alone renders us conscious of the action of any
one vital organ, and our moral diseases having destroyed the harmonious
action of our moral powers, thereby rendering it impossible for us to
appreciate the Divinity in the full harmony of unity, we have been
mercifully permitted to attain to such knowledge as is possible to
us through manifestations of the Divine attributes in trinity. In
proportion as our faculties are trained to act in harmony we shall
become unconscious of their separate functions; and in the same
proportion we shall become capable of looking upon the Divinity in the

* * * * *


It is the grandeur of all truth which _can_ occupy a very high place in
human interests, that it is never absolutely novel to the meanest of
minds: it exists eternally by way of germ or latent principle in the
lowest as in the highest, needing to be developed, but never to be
planted.--DE QUINCEY.

Many persons seem to suppose that the power of Thought, or at least the
power of thinking to any purpose, is a natural gift, possessed by few,
and unattainable by the many. This idea is a very pernicious error, for
one of the traits by which the human being is distinguished from the
brute is the possession of this power; and the progress that every human
being may make in learning to think well has no limit but the universal
one of finite capacity.

The distinction made between thoughtful and thoughtless persons is
commonly one of intellect alone; it should be quite as much one of
morality. Considered intellectually, a thoughtless person cannot be
successful in any but the very lowest walks of life. He brings nothing
but his hands to what he does. If these be strong, he may dig, perhaps,
as well as another man, but he can never make a good farmer; he may
use the axe or the hammer to good purpose, but he can never become a
master-workman. If he attempt anything more or higher than what his
hands can do under the guidance of another's brain, his effort is sure
to be followed by confusion and failure. Viewing a thoughtless person
in a moral light, he cannot be religious, he cannot be virtuous, and,
unless by accident, he cannot even be externally moral. He may, perhaps,
perceive that the grosser forms of wickedness are to be avoided, but he
can have no comprehension of the danger involved in the little vices of
everyday life; and cannot understand how every one of these vices, small
as it may seem, contains within itself the germ of some one of those
great and shocking sins forbidden in the commandments. He will,
therefore, without compunction, go on committing these small sins
until the habit of evil becomes so fixed, that, if he does not end by
committing great ones, it is more frequently from lack of temptation
than from any worthier reason.

The thoughtless person can never be depended upon for anything. We never
know where to find him, or what he will do in any particular position or
relation of life. All we can anticipate of him is, that he will probably
do something bad, or silly, or improper; accordingly as the act may
bear upon morality, sense, or manners.

Before going further, let it be understood that a thoughtless person
is not one without Thought. A human being without Thought is an
impossibility. Most, if not all, idiots think. It is the lack of
coherency, purpose, and effort in Thought that induces the habit of mind
commonly known as thoughtlessness. Without Thought, Imagination, and
Affection, one could not be a human being. Mankind differ from each
other, not in kind, but in degree. It is the low degree of activity in
either of these great divisions of the human mind that causes one to
seem thoughtless, unimaginative, or without affection. The end of all
training should be to develop each one of these faculties so that it
shall cooeperate with the others, and all as fully as possible. A just
balance of power is the first requisite, and constant increase of it
the second; just as in the physical frame we ask, first, for just
proportion, and, as the product of this, for strength.

It is often said that no kind of sense is so rare as common sense; and
this is true, simply because common sense is attainable by all far more,
and is a natural gift far less, than most other traits of character.
Common sense is the application of Thought to common things, and it is
rare because most persons will not exercise Thought about common things.
If some important affair occurs, people try then to think, but to
very little purpose; because, not having exercised their powers on small
things, their powers lack the development necessary for great ones.
Hence, thoughtless people, when forced to act in an affair of
importance, blunder through it with no more chance of doing as they
should than one would have of hitting a small or distant mark at a
shooting-match, if previous practice had not given the power of hitting
objects that are large and near.

The thoughtless person perpetually acts and speaks as if it were of
no consequence what is said or done. If any one venture to suggest a
different mode of speech or action, the reply is pretty sure to be, "O,
it is of no consequence!" As if an immortal being, to whom a few short
years of probation had been given, the use or abuse of which must give
character to an eternity to come, could do or say what would have no
consequence! Let any one bring distinctly before himself the great truth
that we stand ever in the presence of the Almighty, stewards of his
bounty, children of his love, and could it be possible for him to
believe that it is of no consequence how that love is returned, and how
that bounty is used? Every word, every act of our lives, is either a use
or an abuse of his bounty, a showing forth either of our love for or our
indifference to him. Therefore, every word and act has a consequence,
ending not with the hour or day, but stretching forward into eternity.
Let this truth be admitted to the mind, and who could dare to be
thoughtless. Who would not wish to return the infinite love poured out
upon us, by consecrating all that we have and all that we are to the
service of the Infinite Father? When this consecration takes place, all
pure aspirations fill the heart, while the mind is ever thinking what is
the best way in which the will of the Lord may be done. Thoughtlessness
has no longer an abiding-place, for the mind now perceives that it must
be about its Father's business, and Thought becomes a delightful and
invigorating exercise, instead of the wearisome effort it seemed before.

If the mind hold to its integrity, without relapsing into its former
state of blind indifference to its high vocation, the cultivation of
the power of Thought will go on steadily and surely, and the mind will
become constantly more and more clarified from all folly and silliness.

When a person brings everything habitually to the standard of right and
wrong, he gradually learns to judge wisely of whatever subject he may
hold under consideration, provided he does not seek for that standard in
his own mind, but in the mind of the Lord, as he has given it to us in
the Word of eternal life. When this standard is sought only in the human
mind, nothing is fixed or permanent, and discord abounds in society much
as it would if the length and breadth of the fingers of each individual
were to be substituted for the standard inch and foot of the nation; but
if the Bible be honestly and humbly received as the standard by which to
judge of right and wrong, mankind would ever abide in brotherly love and
harmonious union. The element of discord is not in God's work, but in
the mind of man; and man becomes truly wise and capable of concord only
so far as, forgetting the devices of his own understanding, he becomes a
recipient of the truth that descends to him from on high.

It may be objected that the Bible has been the fruitful source of
contention and war; and some may suppose it cannot therefore be a
standard of union to the world; but it should be remembered that, when
it has become a cause of dissension, it has been by the perversion of
man, who has separated doctrine from life,--has put asunder that
which God joined. No contention has ever risen in the world regarding
religious life, but many and terrible ones regarding religious doctrine
separated from life; and it is perfectly apparent, that, had those who
were engaged in them, looked to religious life with the same earnestness
they did toward doctrine, all these dissensions must have ceased.
Christian life is, as it were, a building, of which faith is the
foundation. The foundation is subservient to the superstructure, and
should be strong and well laid; but has no value excepting as it is
the support of a worthy building. The Lord is very explicit in all his
teachings on the subject of life, and it is hardly possible that any one
could faithfully study his words, and then exalt abstract doctrine into
the place that belongs of right to Christian life.

Whoever studies the direct teachings of the Lord, recorded by the
Evangelists, and makes them the rules of his Thoughts, must necessarily
be wise. Everything connected with daily life, if his mind be really
permeated with these teachings, takes its proper place before him. He
sees what has a transient, and what a permanent value,--what is merely
temporal, and what eternal; and so learns to appreciate the relative
value of all things. Everything that occurs becomes a subject for his
thoughts to work upon, and while working in heavenly light his mind
grows in wisdom day by day. This action of Thought will not be confined
to events as they occur around him, but whatever is read, all the events
of the past, all art and science, are brought under the same analysis.
The thoughtless person reads merely for the amusement of the moment,
remembers little of what he reads, and that little to no purpose. A
fact is, to such a man, a mere fact standing by itself, and having no
relation to anything else. However much he may read, the thoughtless man
can never be instructed. He is of those who, seeing, perceive not, and
who, hearing, do not understand. The thoughtful person, on the contrary,
reads everything with a purpose. His mind works upon what he reads, and
he is instructed and made intelligent, even though he may see only
with the light of this world. His intelligence will, however, be very
different and very inferior in degree to that of the man who looks at
objects in the light of heaven. He will measure things by an uncertain,
varying standard, and will appreciate things only according to their
temporal value. He will, therefore, never become truly wise. With those
whose minds are nurtured by the words of the Lord, everything is judged
by the standard of eternal truth. Whatever is learned is digested by the
thoughts, and so the powers of the mind are strengthened and enlarged.
Thus the mind becomes constantly more and more wise. The merely
intellectual man has the desire to become wise, but his eye is not
single, and therefore his mind is obscured by many clouds,--the dark
exhalations of worldliness. When a man fixes his eye upon the Lord he is
filled with light, and sees with a clearness of vision such as can be
gained from no other source.

The cultivation of Thought lies at the root of all intellectuality,
while it elevates and enlarges the sphere of the Affections. Affection
is above Thought, but it is sustained and invigorated by its influence.
Thought being the foundation upon which Affection is built, the
strength, permanence and reliability of Affection must depend on the
solidity and justice of the underlying Thought.

The mind may be stored with the most varied and extensive knowledge, and
yet be neither improved nor adorned thereby. Robert Hall once remarked
of an acquaintance, that he had piled such an amount of learning upon
his brain, it could not move under the weight. It is little matter
whether the amount of learning be large or small; the brain is only
encumbered by it, unless it has taken it into its own texture, and made
it by Thought a part of itself. Some persons love facts as a miser loves
gold, merely because they are possessions; but without any desire to
make use of them. A fact or thought is just as valuable in itself as
a piece of money. Gold and silver are neither food, nor raiment, nor
shelter; but we value them because through their means we can obtain all
these. So facts and thoughts are neither rationality, nor wisdom, nor
virtue, and their value lies in their being mediums whereby we may
obtain them all.

Undigested learning is as useless and oppressive as undigested food; and
as in the dyspeptic patient the appetite for food often grows with the
inability to digest it, so in the unthinking patient an overweening
desire to know often accompanies the inability to know to any purpose.
Thought is to the brain what gastric juice is to the stomach,--a
solvent to reduce whatever is received to a condition in which all that
is wholesome and nutritive may be appropriated, and that alone. To learn
merely for the sake of learning, is like eating merely for the taste
of the food. The mind will wax fat and unwieldy, like the body of the
gormand. The stomach is to the frame what memory is to the mind; and it
is as unwise to cultivate the memory at the expense of the mind, as it
would be to enlarge the capacity of the stomach by eating more food than
the wants of the frame require, or food of a quality that it could not
appropriate. To learn in order to become wise makes the mind active and
powerful, like the body of one who is temperate and judicious in meat
and drink. Learning is healthfully digested by the mind when it reflects
upon what is learned, classifies and arranges facts and circumstances,
considers the relations of one to another, and places what is taken into
the mind at different times in relation to the same subjects under their
appropriate heads, so that the various stores are not heterogeneously
piled up, but laid away in order, and may be referred to with ease when
wanted. If a person's daily employments are such as demand a constant
exercise of the thoughts, all the leisure should not be devoted to
reading, but a part reserved for reflecting upon and arranging in the
mind what is read. The manner of reading is much more important than
the quantity. To hurry through many books, retaining only a confused
knowledge of their contents, is but a poor exercise of the brain; it is
far better to read with care a few well-selected volumes.

There is a strong tendency towards superficial culture at the present
day, which is the natural result of the immense amount of books and
periodicals constantly pouring from the press, and tempting readers to
dip a little into almost everything, and to study nothing. Much is said
of the pernicious consequences arising from lectures and periodicals, as
though a short account of anything must of necessity be a superficial
one; but this is far from the truth. A quarto volume on one theme may
be entirely superficial, while a lecture or review-article on the same
theme may contain the whole gist of the matter. Prolixity is oftener
superficial than brevity. Books are superficial if they relate only
to the outside of a subject,--if they describe only its husk; and the
reverse, if they give its kernel. Many an able review-article contains
the kernel of a whole volume, and if the pleased reader of the
review goes to the book itself, expecting to enjoy that in a degree
proportionate to its size, he will often find he has got nothing but a
dry husk for his pains.

Those who have little time for books, but who wish really to know many
things, can accomplish a great deal by being careful to hunt for meats
rather than for shells and husks; for though the outsides of things make
a great show, and can be displayed by the pedant to great advantage
before those who are superficial as himself, they contain no healthful
nutriment for the mind. Take, for instance, the study of botany. Let
a person master the whole vocabulary of the science, and know the
arrangement of its classifications so well that he can turn at once to
the description of any plant he may find. Let him do this until, like
King Solomon, he knows every plant by name, from the "hyssop on the wall
to the cedar of Lebanon"; but if at the same time he knows nothing
more about them than the name, his knowledge of botany is entirely
superficial, though he may have spent a vast deal of time and labor
in its acquisition. Let another person have studied the physiology of
plants till he has learned all that has yet been discovered of their
curious and beautiful structure,--till he appreciates as far as mortals
may the Divine wisdom, that even in the formation of a blade of grass
transcends not only all that man with all his pride of science and
mechanical skill can perform, but goes far--we cannot even guess how
far--beyond all that human intellect can comprehend; and still more if
the mind of this student be lifted upward in adoration as he learns, he
is the true botanist, though he may have studied far less, if we count
by time, than his superficial brother.

So it is with all the sciences. The kernel is what nourishes the
mind,--the knowledge of what God has created, and not the mere power of
repeating the classifications and vocabularies that man has invented to
describe these creations: not that these also have not an eminent use;
but still it is one that should always be esteemed secondary in all our

So, too, it is with history. One may have all the important dates,
names, and facts of the world's history at the tongue's end, and yet be
none the wiser; for such knowledge is but the surface of history. To
know history well, is to have so arranged its facts in the mind that it
may be contemplated as a continuous exhibition of God's providence. It
is to study the succession of events, not as separate units, but as
links of one vast chain, on every one of which is inscribed a phrase
discoursing of the progress of the human race, and showing the growth of
man in the complex, from infancy to adolescence. Further than that, we
can hardly venture to believe the race has yet advanced. Thus studied,
history is the noblest of all sciences, since it treats of the highest
of God's creations; but studied as a mere congeries of facts, all
sciences are alike worthless; and from the mousings of the mere
antiquarian to the dredgings of the student of the shelly coverings of
the Mollusca, all end in naught.

When a person's employment is one that does not require a constant
exercise of the thoughts, there is the greater need of a constant supply
of nutritious food for the mind, that it may be growing all the time by
reflection, and thus be saved from falling into a morbid state, such
as too often results from long confinement to an occupation demanding
little exertion of its powers. The farmer at his plough, the mechanic at
his bench, the seamstress at her needle, and a host of others, too
often suffer the thoughts to wander into realms of morbid egotism and
discontent, when, if they would turn them upon moral or intellectual
themes, they might be growing wiser and better every day.

It may be objected, that those who are obliged to work hard through the
whole week cannot, on the Sabbath, take enough intellectual food to last
them for Thought during the week. Every person can, if he will, find
time for a chapter in the Bible every day, and therein lies wisdom, that
all humanity combined can never exhaust, and which ever opens richer
stores the more it is wrought upon. Then the human race are everywhere
around us, and every individual is a volume to be read. We are vexed,
and perhaps tormented, by the vices or foibles of those with whom we
are thrown in contact. Let us not stop in vexation, but study our own
hearts, and see if there is not some kindred vice or foible in ourselves
that perhaps troubles our friends quite as much as this disturbs us; for
it is often the case that our own vices, when we meet them in others,
are precisely those which irritate us most; and we are almost always
more irritable through our vices than through our virtues. Again, we
find persons exciting our admiration through their virtues. Let us not
stop in cold admiration, but reflect how we may engraft similar virtues
upon our own souls. It is deep and earnest Thought alone that can teach
us to know ourselves, and without this knowledge we are in constant
danger of cherishing repulsive vices such as we should abhor in others,
and of neglecting the culture of virtues such as in others we esteem
indispensable. Society at large, too, is around us, and domestic
circles, with all their complex relations, their jarring discords, or
their heavenly harmonies; and all are full of food for Thought. The true
and the false, the right and the wrong, are everywhere, and the highest
wisdom is to be able to distinguish one from the other. He who has
spent his whole life in intellectual pursuits may, in this greatest
wisdom,--the only wisdom that belongs to eternity equally with time,--be
the veriest fool; while he who has patiently and prayerfully and
obediently studied no book but the Bible may be so taught of God that he
shall possess all that man while on earth can possess of this highest

It is beautifully said by William von Humboldt, that "exactly those
joyful truths which are the most needful to man--the holiest and
the greatest--lie open to the simplest, plainest mind; nay, are not
unfrequently better, and even more entirely, grasped by such a one,
than by him whose greater knowledge more dissipates his thoughts. These
truths, too, have this peculiarity, that, although they want no profound
research to attain to them, but rather make their own way in the mind,
there is always something new to be found in them, because they are in
themselves inexhaustible and endless."

While the Bible is left to us, while human beings surround us, while our
own souls are to be cleansed, renewed, and saved, we miserably deceive
ourselves if we think we lack material for Thought. We are thinking
perpetually, whether we will or no, and let us look to it that we think
to some good purpose. How much Thought is worse than wasted in planning
how wealth, which too often profiteth not, may be acquired, while the
true riches that the Lord is ever offering for our acceptance are
forgotten! How often are the Thoughts poisoned with envying the lands of
one's neighbor, while one's own soul is lying an uncultivated waste.
How often is the mind cankered with vexation at the intellectual
achievements of an old schoolmate, whom in school days we never deemed
wiser than ourselves, when all that has wrought the present difference
between us is, that he thought and strove while we dreamed and loitered.

In its purely religious action, Thought is the fountain of that Faith
which forms the base of St. Paul's trinity of the primal elements
of Character,--the foundation upon which hope and charity are to be
elevated. How important, then, is it that this foundation should be
wisely laid! Many persons think much in relation to religious subjects
from the love of metaphysical reasoning; while their lives are not
influenced by the doctrines they profess. This is an abuse of Thought,
one of its fruits is bigotry. The more strongly a man confirms himself
in any doctrine that he does not apply to life, the more elevated he
becomes in his own estimation,--the more puffed up with spiritual
pride,--the more full of contempt and hatred towards those who disagree
with him. With such persons, purity of life is as nothing compared with
faith in a certain set of dogmas. There are some who think much of the
vices of life, but always in relation to their neighbors, and thereby
engender that form of bigotry called misanthropy. Both these classes
misuse the faculty of Thought, making it subserve the purposes of
contempt and hatred and debasing narrow-mindedness, instead of
ministering to Christian love, that hopeth all things of its brother,
and judges as it would be judged.

The more we study human nature out of ourselves, and in the light of the
Understanding, the less we love it; but the reverse takes place when we
study our own hearts at the same time that we study the characters of
our fellow-beings, and both in the light of Christian truth. We cannot
hate our fellow-beings while we perceive that we are all of one
family,--while we feel our own weakness and sinfulness; and we cannot
despair of human nature while we believe that Infinite Wisdom has become
its Redeemer and Saviour.

If Thought be strongly turned towards religious subjects, the mind must
necessarily form to itself many doctrines which will be its true creed,
whatever external form of Church creed it may avow, or even if it
disavow all creeds. At the present day, it is not uncommon to hear
creeds spoken of with contempt, as the effete remains of a past age;
and the remark is often made, that it is of no consequence what a man
believes if he do but lead a good life. The religious opinions we hold
constitute the morality of our internal life; and it is difficult to
understand how internal morality can be of no consequence, while
external morality is of so much. It would seem that external morality is
but a mask, unless it truly represent the internal morality. Still it is
not surprising that many superficial observers should be found ready to
express their aversion to creeds, when we consider the abuses into which
Churches and Governments have rushed in their efforts to establish and
maintain their favorite dogmas; or when we observe how the bigoted
supporters of creeds become blinded to every other consideration, and
learn to look upon life as of little importance when compared with
doctrine. It was probably in contemplation of such bigotry that the
Apostle exclaims, "Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee
my faith by my works." This saying is often quoted in defence of the
idea that faith is of no consequence compared with works; but this is no
logical deduction from the text. "I will show thee my faith by my works"
expresses no disregard or undervaluing of faith, but asserts the great
truth that faith becomes a living reality only when it forms itself into
works. The quality of works depends, not on the works themselves, but
upon the faith that inspires them. For instance, three men of equal
wealth may each give the same sum of money to some charity. Externally
the act is the same in each individual, yet the common sense of the very
same persons who a few moments before may have asserted that faith is
nothing, and works everything, does not hesitate to estimate it in a
totally different manner. One of the donors has made up his mind that
ease is the only good. He has taught himself to believe that it is
wise to avoid all trouble, and to give rather than make the effort of
resisting importunity; and he gives because he carries this belief into
effect. Another is an ambitious man, who believes that power and the
good opinion of society are the best among good things; and he gives
to obtain the praise of men and the influence in society which follows
praise. The third believes that the first good of life is making others
happy, and with systematic benevolence examines every claim upon his
bounty, and, if he finds it worthy, never dismisses it unsatisfied. It
was the faith within the act that gave this distinctive quality to the
three donations. The first put his faith in ease, the second in the
opinion of the world, and the third in doing good to the neighbor; and
the common sense of the community judges the actions accordingly. All
the actions of life range themselves under one or other of the three
heads represented by these gifts; namely, the love of self, or ease; the
love of the world, or ambition; and the love of the neighbor, or true
charity. Every man is probably governed in turn by each of these loves;
but in every man one of them takes the lead and dominates over the other
two; and just in proportion as he gives himself up to the dominion
of one of these loves and rejects the sway of the others he leads a
consistent life. Society may assert that life is everything, and faith
nothing, when it talks abstractly; but its common sense ever shows more
wisdom by transferring the quality of the motive to the act, as often as
it finds any clew to the knowledge of motive. Of course, society makes
many blunders in these judgments, because it reads the heart of man
very imperfectly; but the nature of man leads him constantly to attempt
penetrating the heart before forming his opinion of an action.

There is no need of restricting the word creed to the forms of faith
adopted by particular churches. Whatever a man believes is his creed,
and every man has a creed, however much he may be opposed to forms of
faith; and this creed is the rule of his life, however strongly he may
assert, and however implicitly believe, that faith is of no importance.
Take, for instance, a man who devotes his whole energies to the pursuit
of riches from a conviction that they are the greatest good this world
affords. If he have large caution, he will take care not to break the
laws of the land; but everything short of that he will do to attain his
loved object. Perhaps he has large love of approbation; he will then
be a little more cautious, and will do nothing that can injure his
reputation as a gentleman; at least unless he believes that what he does
will not be known in society. Perhaps, however, he has neither of these
restraining traits, and is of a violent disposition; he will then be
ready to rob or murder, if such means seem to promise to give him his
desires. Shall we say this man has no creed, when his faith in the value
of riches impels him to devote body and soul to the acquisition of gain?
Does not his creed run thus: "I believe in gold as the one great good,
and for this will I sacrifice all else that I possess." And does not his
life and death devotion to this creed put to shame the feeble efforts of
many of us who believe that we devote ourselves to more worthy ends?

So it is with those who employ themselves exclusively in the attainment
of intellectual wealth. Faith that this is the one great good incites
them to unwearied labor,--causes them to forget food, sleep, friends,
everything, in order that they may acquire abundant stores of learning;
and all because they have taken as their creed, "I believe that learning
is better than all beside, and for this will I labor day and night."

So it is with the ambitious man. Who labors more devotedly than he; ever
keeping his creed in mind, "I believe that power and reputation are
above all other possessions, and to gain them I will sacrifice time,
labor, truth, and justice."

So it is with every man and every woman the world over. The slothful
even--those who seem impelled to nothing--refrain from effort because
they put their faith in idleness as the one thing above all others

Mankind are possessed of Understanding no less than Affection; and by
this, their inherent nature, they are compelled to believe no less than
to love. It is vain to talk of cultivating the Affections that charity
may be perfected in humanity, and at the same time omit all care of the
faith. The mind will and must believe so long as it continues to think;
and it is as unsafe to leave it without cultivation as to abandon the
heart to the instruction of chance. The question is not, shall we or
shall we not adopt a creed; for however strongly we may resist, we
cannot refrain from holding one; but, what creed shall we adopt?
Accordingly as we answer this question so will the measure of bur wisdom
be both here and hereafter.

The human race may, in this respect, be divided into three
classes,--those who adopt good creeds, those who adopt evil creeds, and
those who, too indolent or too heedless distinctly to adopt any rule of
life, spend their days in vascillating between the two; but the latter,
by reason of the greater tendency to sin than to holiness inherent with
the human race, tend, year by year, more and more decidedly towards the

It is impossible that any person should lead a consistent life unless a
creed be adopted and steadfastly acted upon; because unless one holds
distinct opinions in relation to life and duty, one is drawn hither and
thither by impulse and passion, as the mind's mood varies from time to
time, so that the words and actions of to-day will be often in direct
opposition to those which were yesterday, or which will be to-morrow.

In order to lead a life worthy an immortal being, a child of God, the
first step to be taken is to come to a distinct understanding of
what one wishes to be and to do. The biographies of those who have
distinguished themselves in the world, either for goodness or for
greatness, frequently show that in early life they adopted certain modes
and directions of effort, and have attained to eminence by steadily
persevering in one direction. Among the papers of these persons, written
rules have been found which they have laid down for themselves as
creeds, and in harmony with which they have built up their Characters;
and herein lies the secret of their success.

The living in accordance with such creeds will not insure greatness or
distinguished reputation, because after all our efforts, no one can be
sure of worldly and external success. Events which it was impossible
to provide for, or even to foresee, will often confound the best
preparations of humanity, because the providence of God overrules all
the events of life, according to the eternal dictates of infinite
wisdom and mercy,--a wisdom that knows when it is best for us to succeed
and when to fail in our wishes and endeavors, and a mercy which, looking
to our eternal welfare, sometimes makes us sorrowful here that we may
the more rejoice hereafter.

Perhaps the cause which most frequently prevents the adoption of a creed
is the failing to recognize the seriousness of life in this world. Few
persons can be found so senseless or so reckless as not to recognize the
seriousness of death. Probably few could look upon the solemn stillness
of the lifeless human countenance without a feeling of awe at the
thought that ere long their day too must come when the beating of
the busy heart shall cease, and the now quick blood shall stay its
course,--when the hand shall lose its cunning and the brain its power.
Such impressions are too often transitory, passing away with the object
that awoke them, because persons do not stop to consider why it is that
solemnity and awe pervade the presence of death. If they did, they would
feel that this solemnity was reflected upon life, and life would became
to them serious as death. Both would be serious, but neither sorrowful;
for then death would lose its terror and would be looked forward to
simply as the beginning of eternal life. The solemnity of life lies in
the fact that it is a preparation for eternity; and the solemnity of
death in the fact that the preparation is over and the eternity begun.
In all this there is no cause of sadness, but infinite cause for
thoughtful seriousness.

When the true solemnity of life is comprehended, and the Character is
moulded in accordance with the ideas that in consequence possess the
soul, a growth of the whole nature is induced that prevents all the
repulsive characteristics of old age. Too often old age is utterly
disagreeable through the indulgence of ill-temper, fretfulness, and
selfish indifference to the wishes and pleasures of the young. Such
traits of Character could never possess us if the true import of
life were comprehended, and the Character formed in harmony with its
teachings. A Character that grows in grace daily must become more and
more beautiful and attractive with advancing years. Each day, as it
finds it better fitted for heaven, must find it less sullied by the
imperfections of earth.

We sometimes see persons discontented and peevish because they are
old,--because they feel that they must soon pass away from the
earth. Could this be, if they believed that life on earth was only
a preparation for an eternal life in heaven? Could they shrink with
aversion at the thought of death if they believed it to be the portal of
heaven? The follies and the vices, the weariness and the sadness, the
discontent and the moroseness of life, all spring from the want of a
just conception of its relations and its value, such as can be attained
only by calm, deliberate reflection, out of which wise opinions evolve,
and are gradually shaped into a creed such as forms the bone and muscle
of a wise and noble Character.

Evil is ever the result of the abuse of some good; for nothing was
created evil. The narrow creeds of various churches, by which men's
souls have been unworthily bound, have sprung from the falsification of
the fact that man requires faith in truth that he may be able to lead a
life of goodness. Had the makers of these creeds gone directly to
the Bible for their materials, instead of looking into their own
minds,--had they been content to accept the Ten Commandments given to
the Jewish, or the Two given to the Christian Church, much mischief
might have been avoided; but, not satisfied with the simplicity and
directness of God's word, they built up creeds from their own minds, not
as guides to a holy life, but as chains to compel the minds of other men
into harmony with their own. Just in proportion to the energy with which
they strove to impress themselves upon the people through these creeds
was their indifference to that life' of holiness which should be the end
of all creeds.

The centuries that have passed since the Christian dispensation was
proclaimed have many of them been darkened even to blackness by insane
endeavors to write creeds of man's devising, in letters of fire and
blood, upon the nations. The day for such deeds has passed away from
most lands calling themselves Christian; and now men are inclining to
rush into the opposite extreme, and to mistake licentiousness in belief
for liberty of conscience. Such an extreme naturally follows the
opposite one that preceded it; but out of the anarchy of faith that now
prevails the providence of God. will surely, in his own good time, lift
up his children into the liberty wherewith those who obey him are made
free. Then will it be understood that the truth is not a chain to bind
the soul, but a shining light illuminating all the dark places of the
earth, and pouring into every soul that worthily receives it a living
warmth, that shall clothe the whole being with the beautiful garments
of heavenly charity. Then shall it be seen that all true creeds are
contained within the two commandments of the Son of God. Thou shalt love
the Lord with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength; and thy
neighbor as thyself.


Imagination rules the world.--NAPOLEON.

Imagination is the mediatrix, the nurse, the mover of all the several
parts of our spiritual organism. "Without her, all our ideas stagnate,
all our conceptions wither, all our perceptions become rough and

Imagination is that power of the mind by which it forms pictures or
images within itself. Thought is but a shapeless, lifeless entity, until
Imagination moulds it into form. We cannot bring what we know out into
life until Imagination presents it to the Affections as a possible
reality. Thought is an uncreative power, and gives form to nothing.
Imagination is a more positive power, and can impart form to everything
in thought. Thought acts subjectively, while Imagination is more
objective in its operations. Thought is, by itself, a pure abstraction:
passing into the Imagination it becomes a possible reality, and in the
Affections a vital reality. The Affections cannot love or hate anything
while it is a mere Thought; but when it becomes an image, it is at
once an object either of attraction or repulsion. Thought, therefore,
can be lifted up into the Affections, and then be made manifest in life,
only through the medium of the Imagination.

It has been remarked by a celebrated writer, that all great discoverers,
inventors, and mathematicians have been largely endowed with
Imagination. It might with equal truth have been added, that all
successful persons in every department of life are endowed with an
Imagination commensurate in power with that of the other faculties. To
the mechanic in his shop, no less than to the student in his cell, is it
requisite that he should be able to form a distinct image in his mind
of whatever he wishes to perform. So the teacher, the preacher, and the
parent labor in vain unless there is clearly imaged in their minds the
end to be attained by education and discipline. It is idle to seek for
means to accomplish anything until there is a distinct image in the mind
of the thing that is to be done. If there be such a thing as an "airy
nothing," it is a thought before Imagination has given it a "local
habitation and a name." When Shakespeare said it was the office of the
poet to carry on this transformation, he announced one of those great
general facts which are equally true of every other human being. It is
in degree, and not in kind, that one man differs from another. In this,
the poet is but the type of what every human being must be, if he would
be anything better than a dead weight in society, incapable of success
in any department of life.

Let no one fold his hands supinely, and say, I have no Imagination; and
therefore, if this doctrine be true, my life must be a failure. You may
possibly have but one talent while your neighbor has ten, but you
are just as responsible for the cultivation and enlargement of your
endowment as your neighbor for his. Had the parable been reversed, and
had he who was endowed with five talents hidden them in the earth while
he who had one doubled his lord's money, the condemnation and the
acceptance would likewise have been reversed. Unless a man be so far
idiotic that he is not an accountable being, we blaspheme the goodness
of God, if we say there is nothing he is capable of doing well.

The action of the Imagination may be best illustrated by example.
Previous to the days of Columbus, many sea-captains believed that there
was a Western Continent; but their belief was a cold faith, existing
only in Thought. When the ardent mind of Columbus received the
same belief, Imagination speedily formed it into a reality of such
distinctness that faith changed to hope, and then Affection brooded upon
it until his whole being was absorbed by the determination that he would
be the discoverer of this unknown world. The image of this land was
a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of flame by night, leading him
onward in spite of every discouragement and disappointment. Others might
lose their courage, or die of weariness by the way; but his was that
deathless enthusiasm that knows neither despair nor doubt. To this
intense Imagination the world owes a new continent, and it is to
such Imaginations that it owes almost, if not quite, all the great
discoveries and inventions that have ever been made. There are those who
love to believe that such things are in the main the result of accident;
but it is only to the thoughtful and the imaginative that accident
speaks. To the dull and the indifferent it is utterly dumb.

What is life but one long chain of accidents, if by accident we
understand all that falls out without our own intention or volition. We
cannot control these accidents. There is a power above circumstance and
accident that controls them, as gravitation controls the motions of
material things. We can only turn them at our will, and make use of
them, as the machinist turns the power of gravitation to serve his

Quick-witted persons are those who have the power of rapidly seeing the
relations of things in every-day life,--whose Thoughts grasp, and whose
Imaginations shape with dextrous rapidity, the little accidents of the
hour, and turn them to advantage. Persons of resource are those who have
a deeper Thought, a more earnest Imagination; and who can therefore
lay hold of great principles, and unusual circumstances, with a
power adequate to meet great 'emergencies, and to make use of great
opportunities. If we trample sluggishness and indifference under our
feet, if we do with a will whatever we undertake, determining to do it
as well as we possibly can, we shall become quick-witted in small works,
and full of resource in large undertakings.

The Imagination is often talked of as if it were a useless part of our
being, which should be put down and discouraged as much as possible;
as if the Creator had endowed us with a power we did not need. So
imaginative persons are spoken of with contempt, and here there is more
justice; for, in common parlance, to be imaginative means to have the
Imagination developed out of all proportion with the other powers. This
is, perhaps, quite as bad as to have an insufficiency. What we should
desire is a balance of powers. Imagination should not run away with
Thought and Affection, but neither should it lag behind them. All must
act harmoniously and equally in a symmetrically developed Character.
They are like the three legs of a tripod; and if either is longer or
shorter than the others, or worse still, if no two are alike in length,
the tripod must be an awkward and useless piece of lumber, instead of
the graceful and useful article for which it was intended.

Whatever is to be done, from the discovery of a continent to the making
of a shoe or a loaf, can be done well only by a person of Imagination.
Go to a shoemaker and tell him exactly what you wish for a shoe, and it
is your imagination that gives you the power of telling him so that
he can understand your wishes. Every one can think, "I want a pair of
shoes," but one must have Imagination to know what kind of shoe one
wants, and a clear, distinct Imagination to be able to describe it
intelligibly to another. Suppose you have this, and have told the
shoemaker what you desire. Now, whether the man sends home to you a pair
of misfits, quite different from those you ordered, or a pair just such
as you want, depends in no small degree on his powers of Imagination.
Any man can think enough to fasten materials together into the form of a
shoe, and to make them vary in size according to a regular gradation of
numbers; but this is all he can do unless he exercises his Imagination.
Unless the image of a shoe, as you hold it in your Imagination, was
transferred distinctly to the Imagination of the other, you will look in
vain to find it translated into a material reality. So it is with
your cook. She cannot make a nice loaf of bread, or prepare a dinner
properly, by merely thinking as she works. The idea of a light loaf or
of a well-cooked dinner must be distinctly in her mind, or you will eat
with a disappointed palate.

It is needless to multiply examples here. We have but to look around us
and see them everywhere.

Works of Imagination, of course, come in for their share of opprobium
from those who, instead of striving to regenerate all the universal
characteristics of humanity, would cut off and cast from it all those
traits with which they least sympathize. In spite of their opposition,
the mountain of fiction grows higher and higher every day, and the
multitude throng its pathways to gather that food for the Imagination
that is rarely given it in other compositions. Let the moralist talk
and write against this as he may, it will be of no use, for the mass
of human minds will never take an interest in any book that does not
address itself to the Imagination. From the beginning of the world until
now, no teacher and no writer was ever popular unless he addressed
himself, in part at least, to the Imagination of the world.

When the Father of History read his nine books before the Greeks at the
Olympic Games, and the people hung hour after hour and day after day
upon his words, it was not merely because he glorified their victories
that they listened with delight, but because he told the story with such
vividness that every hearer beheld the on-goings of the tale pictured in
his own Imagination. It was no dull recital of dry facts, the mere bone
and muscle of History that he offered them, but the living story, the
warm blood pulsating through it all, and every nerve instinct with life,
In our own day, if the historian would forget the so-called dignity of
History, which is but another name for lifelessness, and after having
filled his mind with a clear, bright image of what he would relate,
would present his story vividly to the Imagination of the reader, we
should have no more complaints of the dulness of History. Who ever found
Irving or Prescott dull? and yet they are accurate and faithful as the
most stately and oracular. The carping critic may sneer at them because
they are not philosophical and profound; but to have been read with
delight by thousands who would never have reached a second chapter had
they been other than they are, may well satisfy their ambition, and make
them careless of the opinion of the critic. Such writers belong to the
_Republic_ of letters, not to that literary _Oligarchy_ which insists
that books should be written according to certain conventional rules
which have been manufactured in the closet, instead of looking at the
wants of the human mind, and then addressing themselves to those wants.

The class of minds that crave instruction for its own sake must always
be very small; and it is this class alone that will read books in spite
of their lack of imaginative power. Authors have no right to complain
that their wise books lie unread by the multitude, if they persist in
overlooking the nature of the human mind, and addressing themselves
to what they think it ought to be instead of what it really is. They
expatiate admiringly upon the simplicity and vividness of the style
of Herodotus, and upon the classic taste of the Athenian public in
appreciating him; and then, forgetting that the public of our own day
are quick to admire the same traits, turn to their desks and write their
histories as unlike as possible to him whom they have been praising.

The same repulsive want of Imagination too often characterizes Theology
and Metaphysics, and prevents mankind from receiving the instruction
from works on these topics that they need. In the early days of
man's history, Religion and Philosophy addressed themselves to the
Imagination, and then the people listened to their teachings; but
gradually these heaven-born teachers turned more and more away from
Imagination and towards Thought,--lost themselves in abstractions, dried
up, withered, and changed into Theology and Metaphysics; and then the
people turned wearily away from their words; and were they to blame?
They wanted bread, and only stones were given to them. The multitude
would not have followed the Lord, and listened with admiring wonder
to his instructions, had they not been addressed to the Imagination.
Infinite Wisdom clothed itself in parables, that the people might be
instructed, and the people thronged to hear. The truths of Philosophy
and Religion are of an interest more universal to humanity than the
truths of all other science, for the first is to know one's self, and
the second to know one's God; and yet the majority of teachers cover
them with such a body of technicalities and abstractions, that it is
vain for the mass of mankind to endeavor to penetrate to the soul

If the clergy of the Protestant Church would spend more strength in
illustrating the Infinite Wisdom contained in the parables of the Lord,
and less in amplifying the abstractions of St. Paul, they would gather
around them bands of listeners far more numerous and more devout than
those that now attend their ministrations. It was one of the grand
mistakes of that Church, at its first separation from the Romish, that,
in its terror of the worship of material images, it passed into the
opposite extreme of the worship of abstractions. This is one reason why
Protestantism has made no advance in Europe since the death of the first
Reformers, and why there is so little vital religion among the races by
whom it was adopted.

Much has been done of late to render the natural sciences familiar and
attractive to the popular mind, by lectures and books that bring them
within the comprehension of all: and it is to be hoped, that, beginning
thus with the material parts of the universe, mankind may be gradually
led from matter to mind, from science to religion. The forms of external
things are easily reproduced in the mind as images, and this is why
natural science addresses itself more readily to the mind than any other
branch of learning. When men learn to look within, and perceive that
the things of the mind are as genuine realities as the objects of the
external world, Philosophy will become attractive; and when the preacher
warms Theology into Religion by abandoning the technicalities of
abstractions for the living realities of piety towards God and charity
towards the neighbor, he will rejoice in a listening audience.

The amount and the quality of that which we call originality, creative
power, or genius, is entirely dependent upon the activity, force, and
integrity of the Imagination. Talent belongs to Thought, and works only
with facts and ideas as others have done before. It may be skilful,
sensible, and faithful, but it can walk only in the old, beaten tracks.
It can classify and arrange, but it can never discover or invent. Talent
can understand and admire the mechanical powers; Genius puts them in
harness, and makes them traverse land and sea to do his bidding. Talent
loves to gaze on the fair forms of nature, and depicts them upon canvas
with skill and truth, neither adding to nor subtracting from its model.
Genius seizes upon the hints that nature gives, and without being false
to her, makes use only of that which helps to make up the beautiful, the
sublime, or the terrible; showing the power that is within nature rather
than nature herself. Talent sees life as it is, and so describes it, if
it ventures into the domain of literature. Genius sees life as it is
capable of being, and hence comes poetry and romance, depicting heroes
and heroines, monsters and fiends, types rather than representatives of
the human race. Talent perceives only the actualities of things, Genius
their possibilities. Talent is content with things as they are, while
Genius is ever striving to bring out latent capacities in whatever it
deals with. If true to its higher impulses, Genius is ever striving to
come nearer "the first good, first perfect, and first fair"; if false,
it degrades and deforms everything it touches.

Mankind differ from each other in degree, but not in kind. By his power
of thinking, a man has talent; by his power of imagining, genius.
Quick-wittedness is genius in its lowest form,--genius applied to
material life in its daily ongoings. The power for resource in
emergencies is genius in a higher form. Invention--the putting together
with an adequate purpose two things or ideas that never went together
before--is genius in another form.

Admitting that men differ from each other, not in kind, but in degree,
the question arises, Are all men capable of an equal degree of
development? This may best be answered by comparison. All men are alike
in the general conformation of their bodies; all have the same number of
physical organs, designed for the same purposes. The relative power of
these organs is, however, very different in different individuals.
One has a fine muscular frame, and delights in exercises of physical
strength, while effort of the brain is a weariness to him. Another has
a finely developed brain, and delights in intellectual labor, while his
strength of muscle is hardly sufficient for the absolute needs of life.
One has the digestion of an ostrich, while another lives only by painful
abstinence; and so on with indefinite variety. We know that much may
be done by well-directed effort to overcome the weaknesses and
imperfections of the body; but still there is a limit to this, and all
men cannot be strong and healthy alike. So it is with the powers of the
mind. All men have the same number of powers,--this constitutes their
humanity; but the relative force of their development varies in each
individual. We know that a determined will works wonders in overcoming
the defects of the body, and it can do more in overcoming the defects
of the mind, because the spiritual body of man is far more docile
and flexible to the will than the natural body; but there must be
limitations here likewise: still, progress is eternal, and no man can
tell beforehand of how much he is capable.

In cultivating the powers of the mind, the first step is to admit
distinctly to one's self the fact of human responsibility; to feel that
we are stewards to whom the Lord has intrusted certain talents, and that
we are responsible to him for the use we make of them. Indolence will
perhaps tell us that we are of very little consequence, and that it
is not worth while for us to trouble ourselves about developing our
understandings; that it is vanity in us to suppose that we can be of
much use in the world; that we have but little leisure, and may as well
amuse ourselves with books and society; for we need recreation, wearied
as we are with the cares of life. Let us answer each of these excuses by
itself; and first, we are of so little consequence. If the tempter
take this form to slacken your efforts, tell him you are one of God's
children, and therefore, by your birthright, of eternal consequence;
that he who is faithful in the least things thereby proves his capacity
for being faithful in much, and that by showing your willingness to
serve the Lord in the small things of life, you are fitting yourself for
serving him in large things, if not in this world, yet in the world to
come. Moreover, is not every one of the highest consequence to himself;
and is not the least of human beings as much interested to save his own
soul as the greatest? Then, as to use in this world, you are responsible
to the fullest extent of your abilities for the influence you exert in
your sphere as entirely as is the greatest of human beings in his. No
one is so small that he brings no influence to bear upon the social
circle; no one so insignificant that he does not exert an influence,
even by the expression of his countenance, though he may speak no word.
Where can we find a circle that is not shadowed, as by a cloud, if one
countenance appears within it darkened by sullenness, ill-humor, or
discontent? Where one that is not warmed and cheered, as by a sunbeam,
if one enters it whose features glow with good-humor, contentment, and
satisfaction? Then does not the command to love our neighbor make us
even responsible for the expressions our faces wear? In relation to the
plea for recreation and amusement, it can readily be shown how these may
be made subservient to a true and high cultivation of the understanding.
While few are slow to admit our accountability in all that relates to
the cultivation of the Affections, many seem to suppose, that in what
relates to the Understanding we may, without wrong, follow our own
inclinations. This opinion comes from a false estimate of the nature
and uses of the Understanding. If considered as a mere receptacle for
Latin and Greek, Mathematics and Metaphysics, Science and Literature, we
may, without moral turpitude or virtue, abstractly considered, follow
our own inclinations; but the Understanding will all the time be growing
either stronger or weaker, wiser or more foolish, whether we study them
or whether we let them alone. This action of the Understanding cannot go
on without influencing the Affections. The one is as much the gift of
God as the other, and each alike demands a healthful nutriment. An
Understanding whose attributes are ignorance and folly can never promote
a healthful growth of the Affections.

It has been already said that the Understanding of a great majority of
human beings can be reached only through its imaginative side. Every one
who is accustomed to children knows that this is universally true of
them. Tell a child an abstract truth, and it falls dead upon his ear;
but illustrate the same truth in a little story, and he is quick to
estimate its justice. This continues true of most persons during their
whole lives, so that it is vain to attempt touching their minds in any
other way than by presenting them with some image illustrating the truth
inculcated. Those who are capable of receiving an abstract truth without
such an image are frequently so from the fact that the moment such a
truth is presented to their Understanding, their Imagination is prompt
to furnish the corresponding image. Unless this is done either by the
speaker or the listener, the truth is apt to be only a useless piece of
lumber stored away in the thoughts. The whole secret of the fascinating
power of the novelist lies in his telling us of all that is most
interesting to humanity, and presenting everything to the mind in

Most persons have so many duties to perform, that they have little time
for voluntary employment, and then they want recreation, which, if they
read, they say they can gain only through works of Imagination. There is
nothing to object to in this, if such works be well selected and read
wisely. There are many bad ways of reading novels; but there are two
to be especially avoided; firstly, vitiating the Affections by reading
impure novels; and secondly, weakening the powers of the Understanding
by glancing through novels merely for the sake of the story. To
read novels of doubtful or bad morality is as likely to corrupt the
Affections as to associate with low and wicked companions. There is an
abundant supply of pure and noble compositions of this sort on which the
Imagination may feed without fear. If it morbidly craves the licentious
pictures that come from the pen of such writers as Ainsworth or George
Sand, its longings should be resisted as steadfastly as those which
incline us to the gaming table or other scenes of licentious indulgence.
On the other hand, the danger to the Understanding from skimming novels
is far too much overlooked. It is not recreation, but dissipation, not
a renewal, but a destruction, of the powers to read in this way. If you
would be benefited by what you read, learn to read critically. Look at
the characters, and see if they be natural and well drawn; observe the
morality, and see if it be true or false; examine the style, and see if
it be good or bad, graceful or awkward, distinct or vague. Novel-writing
is one of the fine arts, and by looking upon it as such, you may
cultivate your taste and discrimination to an extent you little dream

Imagination is the marriage of Thought and Affection, and the Fine Arts
are its first-born children, and represent humanity in all its phases
more fully and truly than any other department of art or science. What
we know as the useful arts, which are born of man's love for physical
ease and pleasure, are of comparatively modern date; but history
goes not back to the time when the mind of man first took delight in
fashioning and admiring the products of the fine arts. Many suppose them
God-given and coeval with the birth of man. Music, painting, sculpture,
poetry, and romance are the five departments of the fine arts. When
these are studied and loved merely for amusement, they are of little or
no use; if they are made vehicles for filling the mind with impure and
evil images, they are shocking abuses; but if they subserve pure and
holy purposes, elevating the soul towards all that is beautiful and
good, they are true Apostles of the Word. Their ministrations are almost
if not quite universal. It would be hard to find a human being whose
soul is not stirred by one or other of them.

Comparatively few persons have it in their power to enjoy the delight
and the refining influence that are derived from the highest exhibitions
of skill in those departments of the fine arts that address themselves
to the eye and the ear; but poetry and romance, the most intellectual
and the most varied of them all, are accessible to every one. As those
blessings that are far off and difficult to be attained are usually
those which are most highly prized, we often find persons sighing for
the culture to be obtained from music, painting, and sculpture, and
overlooking or undervaluing the higher culture to be derived from poetry
and romance. The best gifts of Heaven are always those which are most
universal. Let any one read the plays of Shakespeare, the poems of
Milton, and the novels of Scott carefully and critically as he would
study a gallery of pictures, and he will find his taste refined and
elevated as much as it could be by a visit to the Vatican. The genius of
these authors is to the full as high and noble and original as that of
Raphael, Angelo, or Titian. The means of culture are not far-fetched and
dear-bought. They lie around us everywhere, and to make use of them is a
luxurious recreation of the mind. What mother, wearied and worn by the
cares of maternity, what laborer, exhausted with toil, what student,
faint with striving for fame, but would be refreshed and renewed for
the warfare of life by forgetting it all for a little while in the
realms of the ideal world?

The common, vulgar misuse of novel-reading by the silly, the
empty-headed, and the corrupt, should not blind us to its benefits.
There are those who in music, painting, and sculpture find only
nutriment for sensuality and impurity. Shall we, therefore, deny to all,
and banish from the world the refining ministrations of beauty in form
and color and sweet sounds? As justly may we wage war upon the wayside
flowers because the children are now and then tardy at school from
stopping to gather them. The Creator could never have strown beauty
broadcast upon the face of the earth if it had no use. The very
abundance of this nutriment offered to our love of beauty is evidence

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