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The Elements of Character by Mary G. Chandler

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of its value; the very fact that we can abuse this love so fearfully is
proof of its capacity for elevated usefulness.

Reading good works of Imagination in the thoughtful way that has been
described will be very likely to rouse an action in the mind that will
make it crave something more solid; and all should learn, if possible,
to love instructive books. The brain that is overtasked by muscular
labor--for the nervous energy of the brain is exhausted by physical
effort as well as by mental--is the only one that is excusable for
refreshing itself only with images from the ideal world. There are
Sabbaths of rest to all sometimes, when opportunity may be found to gain
something of a more nutritious quality; when, through biography we may
learn to know some good and great character that will ever after stand
in the mind an image of excellence to cheer us on our way, and make us
feel with joy that there is power in us to do likewise; or perhaps some
book of science that will enlarge our ideas of the wisdom and goodness
of the Creator of us all. It should ever be remembered, that those
whose minds are empty of images of goodness and truth are, almost of
necessity, constantly becoming more and more full of images of evil and
falsehood. Jealousy, envy, discontent, and love of scandal, are among
the earliest products of an idle, empty mind. We are not, however,
dependent upon, books for the means of cultivating the Imagination.
There is a training of this power within itself, a morality of
Imagination, that daily life compels us to observe if we would be
practical, moral beings.

The first requisites in a healthy, well-developed Imagination are truth
and distinctness. To those who deem Imagination but another name for
fiction and falsehood, it may seem a contradiction in terms to talk of a
true Imagination; but it is not so. Works of fiction charm us always in
proportion as they seem true, and it is the morbid Imagination only that
delights in falsehood. We sometimes see persons who, without apparent
intention of falsehood, seem incapable of speaking the truth. If they
relate a circumstance that has passed under their own observation, or
describe anything that they have seen, they add here and diminish there,
distort this and give a new color to that, in such a manner that the
hearer receives an impression of nothing as it really is. If there seem
to be no malicious or evil design in all this, such persons are commonly
called very imaginative; they should be called persons of unregulated,
unprincipled Imaginations. They do not bring Imagination under the sway
of conscience, and their power of appreciating the truth will grow less
and less until Imagination becomes a living lie.

Visionary persons form another class of those who do not regulate
Imagination by the laws of him who is truth itself. With these,
Imagination is as false in relation to that which is to come, as with
the last described in relation to that which has already been. In their
plans of life they reason from fancy instead of from fact, and their
Imaginations are filled with fantastic visions of things impossible,
instead of the clear, bright images of that, which may rationally be
expected to come to pass. Such persons perpetually wasting their powers
by trying to do so many things that they can do nothing well, or by
striving to do some one thing that is impossible; thus rendering
themselves comparatively useless in society, and often even mischievous.
To avoid this error, it is needful to go back perpetually to Thought in
order to obtain a solid foundation for Imagination to build upon. As
Imagination passes to and fro between Thought and Affection, it must
remember that it is a messenger from one to the other, and must not
invent tales on the way, and so deceive Affection into acts of folly.
The facts of the message must be precisely such as Thought gave them,
while their costume may be such as Imagination would have it. Thus the
Affections will be roused to action in proportion as the eloquence of
the Imagination is more or less intense, When it speaks in "words that
burn," if it speak from itself, it will rouse the Affections to wild
fanaticism; but if it speak from Thought, it will waken enthusiasm in
the heart, such as shall bear it steadfastly onward in the path of duty,
"without haste and without rest." Distinctness of Imagination may be
cultivated by carefully observing things we wish to remember, and
then calling up their forms before the mind's eye, and endeavoring to
describe them just as they are, in words, by writing, or by drawing;
and then reexamining to see where we have erred, and correcting our
mistakes. If this be done from a genuine love of truth, the Imagination
will soon become accurate and trustworthy. In reading, strive to bring
what is read before the mind's eye, and so impress it upon the memory
in images. This process quickens the power of memory, and enables it to
retain much more than it otherwise could. If the writer be imaginative,
it is easily done; but if not, we must strive to make up for his
deficiencies by our own efforts. Reading history and travels,
constant reference to maps and pictures fixes facts upon the memory
simply by transferring them to the Imagination. Memory is not a faculty
by itself. What we only think about we remember feebly; what we image in
our minds we remember much more strongly; what we love we never forget
while we continue to love it.

In cultivating the Imagination, we must be sure to allow Thought to go
with it hand in hand; remembering that the two together make up the
Understanding. We must be careful to search conscientiously for true
thoughts before allowing Imagination to shape them into forms. In order
to find the truth, we must love it for its own sake, and must seek it
with straightforward earnestness, because we believe it needful to the
building up of Character. If we seek it from any less worthy motive, our
sight will become morbid, we shall lose the power of knowing it when
it is found, and shall be liable to mistake for it some miserable
falsehood. If we allow Imagination too much liberty, zeal will run
before knowledge; if we allow it too little, knowledge will run before
zeal. In the former, case we shall be liable to fanaticism; in the
latter, to sluggishness. In the former case we shall be ready to
undertake to do anything that attracts us, whether we know how to do
it or not; in the latter, we shall not be willing to try to do what we
might. The lack of Affection prevents us from desiring to do a thing,
the lack of Imagination makes us think we cannot do a thing, the lack of
Thought of course makes it impossible to do a thing; for we cannot do a
thing till we know that it is to be done.

In our religion, Thought gives us faith, Imagination gives us hope, and
Affection gives us charity. Religion does not become a personal matter
to us until it takes the form of hope. While it is simply a thing of
thought it is cold, barren faith, and we care nothing for it; but when
Imagination touches it, faith is changed to hope, and we begin to
perceive that religion is a thing to be desired in our own persons.
Religious fear, too, is the child of Imagination. Devils believe and
tremble, because they hate goodness. Angels believe and hope, because
they love it.

Every one has within his mind an imaginary heaven, within and around
which all cherished images arrange themselves, according as they are
more or less dear. We should search our minds, and learn what are the
attributes of our heaven, if we would know whether we are tending
towards the true heaven that is prepared for those who order their lives
aright. We shall, if we do this, be sure to find that there are certain
images rising very often in our minds, into which our thoughts seem to
crystallize when disturbed by no interruption from without; and these.
images make up all that we believe of heaven; they are the kingdom of
heaven within us. We may, with our lips, acknowledge faith in a pure
heaven wherein dwelleth righteousness; but unless our ideas fall
habitually into forms of purity, there is no genuine faith in such a
heavenly kingdom. We truly believe only in what we love. We may learn
from books and from instructors a great deal about the science of
goodness, and may talk of such knowledge until we fancy that we should
be happy in a heaven where goodness reigned triumphant; and yet we may
be entirely deceived in this fancy, and our hearts may all the while be
fixed on things so entirely apart from the true heaven, that nothing
could make us more miserable than the being forced to dwell within its
gates. If we would test the quality of our faith, we must watch the
images and pictures that rise habitually before our mind's eye in our
hours of reverie; for they faithfully represent the secret affections of
the heart. If these images are forms of purity and goodness, it is well
with us; the kingdom of heaven is truly there; but if they represent
only forms of things that belong to this world, if dress and equipage
and social distinction haunt our longings, if visions of pride,
vain-glory, and luxury are ever prompt to rise,--visions that belong
only to the love of self and of the world,--visions that do not beckon
us onward to the performance of duty, but only entice us with the
allurements of sensuality and self-indulgence; or still worse, if
discontent, envy, and malice darken the temple of Imagination with their
scowls, the kingdom of heaven is far from us as the antipodes. This
imaginary heaven that selfishness and worldliness have built up within
us is in truth but an emanation from hell. We may talk of heaven, and
observe its outward forms all our lives while harboring this demoniacal
crew within; and we shall grow ever harder and colder with intolerance
and bigotry under their influence; nor can we ever have that joy in
heavenly hope that belongs to those whose hearts cleave to all that is
pure and true, and whose souls are therefore filled with the imagery of

We cannot expect, in this life, to attain to a state of regeneration so
entire that no images of evil shall ever come to our souls; but we may
hope to become so far advanced that we shall not welcome and entertain
them when they come; but shall recognize them at once as often as they
appear, and drive them from us. This much, however, we cannot do with
our own strength, for that is weakness; but if we strive, looking ever
to the Lord, whose strength is freely given to all who devoutly ask his
aid, we shall be armed as with the flaming sword of cherubim, turning
every way to guard the tree of life.


Love is the Life of Man.--SWEDENBORG.

With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.--ST. PAUL.

The Affections are the most interior of all the attributes of man,--they
are in fact his spiritual life. The acquisitions of the Understanding
truly appertain to man only when the Affections have set their seal upon
them. We may store our memories with knowledge and wisdom gathered from
every source, but until they are grasped by the Affections they do
not belong to us; for till then they do not become part and parcel of
ourselves. So long as we merely know a thing we make no use of it. The
facts of knowledge, as they lie in the Understanding, may exhibit a rank
growth of thoughts and images; but though flowers may adorn them, they
will all perish barrenly; while, if the warmth of the Affections is
thrown upon them, the rich clusters of fruit speedily appear; not
only affording present delight, but promising to be the parents of
numerous offspring yet to come.

The Affections cannot be analyzed and comprehended with the same kind of
distinctness with which we comprehend Thought and Imagination; because
that which belongs to the Understanding can be expressed or described
in words, and in that form be passed from one to another; while the
Affections exist only in forms of emotion that cannot be distinctly
translated into words. A glance of the eye or a touch of the hand often
transfers an emotion from one mind to another with a facility and
clearness of which words are incapable. There are no things we believe
so completely as those which we _feel_ to be true, yet there are none
about which we reason so imperfectly.

The motive-power in man is Affection. What he loves he wills, and what
he wills he performs. Our Character is the complex of all that we love.
We often think we love traits of Character that we cannot possess; but
we deceive ourselves. All that we truly love we strive to attain,
and all that we strive after rightly we do attain. The cause of
self-deception on this point is, that we think we love a certain trait
of Character when we only love its reward; or that we hate other traits
when we only hate their punishment.

The passionate man perceives that his ungoverned temper causes him
trouble, and occasions him to commit acts of injustice, and to say
things for which he is afterwards ashamed; and he exclaims, "I wish I
could acquire self-control; but alas! a hasty temper is natural to me,
and I cannot overcome it." Tell such a man that he is just what he loves
to be, and he will deny it without hesitation; and yet the love of
combating and of overcoming by force are the darling loves of his heart;
and when he fancies that he is wishing to overcome these propensities,
he is thinking only of the worldly injury his temper may occasion him,
and not of the hatefulness of anger in itself. So soon as we begin to
hate anger for its own sake we begin to put it away; but while we only
hate the bad consequences of anger we cleave to its indulgence. So it is
with indolence. We know, perhaps, that we are indolent, and we perceive
that this vice stands in the way of our attaining to many things that
we desire, and we believe that we wish to become diligent, when we are
steadfastly loving a life of indolence, and wishing not for diligence,
but for its rewards. What we suppose to be dislike of indolence is only
dislike of the consequences that indolence brings in its train. So the
drunkard sometimes goes to his grave cheating himself with the idea that
the lust of the flesh binds and enslaves him; and that he really loves
the virtue of temperance, while in truth he is loving sensual indulgence
with all his heart. Possibly temperance reformers might be more
successful in reclaiming such slaves from their sin if they would talk
less of the punishments the drunkard brings upon himself in the shape
of poverty, and disease, and shame, and enlarge more upon the moral
degradation to his own soul which he fastens upon himself both for this
life and the life to come.

We are all of us perpetually liable to gross self-deception by thus
transferring in fancy our love or our hate for the consequences of vices
or virtues to the vices or virtues themselves. If we made this transfer
in fact, we should at once set about gaining the one and putting away
the other; but so long as we believe that sin dwells within us without
our consent and approval we become daily more and more the servants of

We not unfrequently see a very poor family having an intense desire for
education, and their poverty, instead of putting its acquisition out of
their reach, seems only to stimulate their ardor of pursuit. One half of
their time will perhaps be spent in the most arduous labor in order to
procure the means of obtaining the aid of books and teachers to enrich
the other half; and no self-denial in dress or physical indulgence seems
painful, when weighed against the pleasure of increasing the means of
education. Here is genuine love of learning, and the result of its
efforts will prove the truth of the old adage, "Where there is a
will there is a way." This family is acting out its life's love
understandingly and with fixed purpose.

Perhaps in the very next house to this is another family of not nearly
so small property. They too profess great love of and desire for
education; but there is no corresponding effort. They must dress with a
certain degree of gentility, and they must not make an effort to earn
money by any means that would seem to lower their standing in society;
and, moreover, they are indolent, and the effort that the denial of
physical indulgences requires seems insupportable to them. The parents
of this family will often be heard lamenting that their children cannot
have an education; and if one should venture to indicate the possibility
of their obtaining one for themselves as their neighbors are doing, they
will reply that their children have not strength to struggle along in
that way, or that they are too proud to get an education in a way that
would seem to place them in point of social rank below any of their
fellow-students. This family are acting out their life's love just as
thoroughly, though not as understandingly, as the other. They do not
desire education from love for it, but because it would give them a
certain standing in society, and not having the means of indulging
vanity in this direction, they turn to dress and idleness, as easier
signs of what is vulgarly called gentility. Still these persons would
deem you unjust and unkind if you told them they were living in
ignorance because they had no true love for education; and they would
hardly deem you sane should you tell them that the Character of every
human being is the sum and continent and expression of all that he best

We cannot truly love anything that we do not understand,--anything that
has not a distinct existence in our thoughts and imaginations; and all
of Character that we love and can clearly image to ourselves we can
bring out into life. The Affections are the children of the Will, and
if the Will be determined and steadfast, there is no limit but the
finiteness of humanity to the progress in whatever is undertaken. When
we love ardently, all effort seems light compared with the good we
expect to derive from the possession of that which we love. If we become
weary and faint by the way, it is because we lack intensity of love.

In reading the lives of distinguished men, we find that, in the pursuit
of whatever has raised them above the mass of men, they knew no
discouragement, acknowledged no impossibility. We read of travellers
who, to satisfy a burning curiosity for discovery, pass through peril
and fatigue that is fearful for us even to think of; and yet they, so
intense was their love for what they sought, encountered all with a
determination that made suffering and danger indifferent, nay, almost
acceptable to them. So the inventor labors, year after year, through
poverty and privation, compensated for all by the anticipation of the
satisfaction that will be his when his darling object is attained. So
the student, the philanthropist, the statesman, labors in like manner,
lighted by thought, cheered by imagination, warmed by love. Needful as
may be the light and the cheer, it is the warmth only that can give
life. We may know and imagine, and yet perform nothing; but when love
is wakened, performance becomes a necessity of our being; and every
sacrifice of momentary pleasure we make in order to obtain the fruition
of our desires is not only without pain, but it is sweet as self-denial
to a lover, if perchance he may give pleasure thereby to the object of
his passion. It is the merest self-delusion for any one to sit still and
say, "I love this or I love that trait of Character; but it is not in my
powder to gain it." They who love do not sit still and lament. Love is
ever up and doing and striving. They who sit still and lament, love the
indulgence of their own indolence better than aught else, and what they
love they attain. .

It is of course impossible that all should become distinguished by the
efforts they may make in life; and this is not what we should aim at
in the training of Character. To be distinguished implies something
comparative,--implies, if we aim after becoming so, that we seek to be
superior to others. This is not an aim that can be admitted in Christian
training. Character is something between us and our God, and every
thought we admit that savors of rivalry or emulation in our efforts
degrades them, and takes from them the sanctity that can alone insure
success. The moment that finds us saying, "I am glad that I am better
than my neighbor," or even, "I desire to be better than I wish to see
him," that moment finds us destitute of a true conception of Christian
charity. We cannot attain to a healthy growth of Character until,
smitten by the beauty of excellence, we worship its perfection in our
Lord and Saviour, and with hearts fixed on him, strive, trusting in his
aid, to be perfect even as he is perfect. In this effort we must shut
out from our hearts every emotion that cannot be admitted into our
prayers to him for light and strength. Are we sorrowful that our
neighbor is gaining upon the way faster than ourselves, let us remember
that this emotion is virtually a prayer that his strength may be
lessened for our sake; and let us change it as quickly as we can to a
more earnest longing after our own growth, without comparing ourselves
with any human being. Elation, if we think we have passed another in the
race, is a vice of the same character as envy at another for surpassing
us. Such envy and such elation are children of that pride of heart that
shuts the door on all brotherly love. It is that vice by which Cain
fell, and so far as we admit it into our bosoms we voluntarily become
the children of Cain.

The Lord tells us to seek first the kingdom of heaven and its
righteousness, and that all other good things shall be added unto us.
We cannot suppose he meant by this that the reward of virtue was to be
found in houses and lands, or worldly wealth of any kind, although he
enumerated these things in the promise; for we know that these are,
perhaps, as often possessed in abundance by the basest of men as by the
most virtuous. How, then, are we to understand this promise? To seek the
kingdom of heaven and its righteousness is to serve the Lord with all
the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength; and the rewards appropriate
to such service surely cannot be counted in silver and gold. These may
adorn the happiness that virtue gives; but they cannot constitute it.
He who labors simply for the love of wealth is content if he obtain
the reward he seeks; but he who labors to obtain the fully developed
character of a man,--the image and likeness of God,--if he attain
nothing beyond wealth, would feel such reward to be only a mockery
of his desires. Such labor lifts us above the happiness external
possessions can give, and bestows upon us a wealth that the world cannot
take away. He who wishes to serve God acceptably, cultivates all his
capacities to the best of his ability, in order to increase his power
of leading a useful life, and is therefore constantly adding to
himself possessions that can never leave him;--rational and spiritual
possessions which, in relation to our internal life, correspond to
worldly possessions in relation to our external life, and were therefore
signified in the parabolic language of the Lord.

When the philosopher of old lost the library he had been all his
life-long collecting, he exclaimed, "My books have done me little
service if they have not taught me to live happily without them." He had
made their contents his own by diligent study, and no power could take
this from him, and they had made him wise by their instructions, so that
he could possess his soul in patience under external losses of any kind.
The man who studies books, though he may not own a volume, makes them
his own far more completely than the bibliomaniac who spends a fortune
in filling his library with choice editions of works life is not long
enough to read. So it is with works of art. He who can most truly
appreciate them is he who really owns them. One man will fill his house
with pictures and statues and all beautiful works of art, because the
possession of such things gives distinction in society. He collects
them, not because he loves art, but because he loves himself; and
values them precisely in proportion to the sums of money they have cost
him. Those among his visitors who love art for its own sake, and have
learned to appreciate such things justly, have a pleasure incomparably
more interior and profound in gazing upon them than he who rejoices in
having paid large sums of money for them; and surely no one of such
visitors would exchange his power of appreciation for the others
external possession of them. Who, then, is the true owner, if not he who
feels most delight in contemplating them, and who has the most delicate
perception of all their shades of beauty?

In the highest of all enjoyments of the eye, that which we derive from
the contemplation of external nature, the man whose soul is most deeply
thrilled by its beauty, whose heart rises in worship as he gazes upon
the mountains in their calm sublimity, and remembers how the Lord
frequented such heights for prayer, and who wanders beneath, the shadows
of the woods, feeling that "the groves were God's first temples," this
man surely has the kingdoms of the earth in closer possession than he
who holds thousands of acres in fee.

Whatever possessions we can name, whether external or internal, whether
of the heart, the head, or the hand, it is love by which we truly hold
them. Nothing is ours that we do not love, and through love we obtain
possession of all that our hearts crave.

The love, however, that is so strong to obtain must be no superficial
sentiment, but an inward passion of the heart. So long as we live in
thought and imagination we are very apt to mistake mere sentiment for
love; but the difference will show itself so soon as we begin to act.
Sentiment is soon wearied by labor and difficulty in its pursuit of
mental attainment, soon disgusted by squalor or offended by ingratitude
in its attempts at benevolence, soon discouraged by the hardness of its
own heart when it endeavors to acquire self-control, or to gain such
virtues as seem in the abstract lovely and delightful. In short,
sentiment wants a royal road to whatever it strives to reach. Love, on
the contrary, is too much in earnest to be dismayed by any impediment.
It will not stop half-way and make excuses for its short-comings. It
rests not in its course until it has gained what it seeks; and then it
rests not long, for all true love "grows by what it feeds on," and every
height of excellence we reach does but enlarge the field of vision and
show us new countries to be won.

Admitting love to be, indeed, this intense and all-pervading power, and
the very life of our souls, the importance of training ourselves to love
only that which is pure and true at once becomes manifest. The heights
of heaven are not farther from the depths of hell than are the results
that come to us if we seek the pure and the true from those which
inevitably occur when the choice falls upon the impure and the false.
Let no one think to dwell in safety because he has not deliberately said
to himself, "I choose the impure and the false"; for if the pure and the
true be not deliberately and voluntarily chosen, the heart out of
its own inherent selfishness and worldliness will unconsciously sink
gradually, but surely, into the impure and the false. There is no
half-way resting-place for humanity between good and evil. We are always
sinking, unless we are rising; going backward, unless we are pressing

Much is said of the truth and purity of childhood, and they are very
beautiful, for the angels that care for children do continually behold
the face of the Heavenly Father,--do stand perpetually within the
sphere of absolute truth and purity. But soon the child slips the
leading-strings of its guardian spirit, and comes into its own liberty;
and now, unless it freely chooses to follow with willing and constant
step in the same path wherein it has thus far been led, it will wander
from side to side, increasing at each turning the distance that
separates it from the way of life, until at last it may wander so far
that it loses the desire and even the memory which might lead it
to return. Vicious propensities will, perhaps, begin to show
themselves; and in the hardened and shameless youth it will be hard to
recognize any trace of the innocence of infancy. But, perhaps, instead
of viciousness, carelessness is developed, and youth is brightened by
gayety, amiability, and ready generosity. Occasional derelictions from
truth and honor find ready apologists among friends, because the boy or
the girl is so "good-hearted"; but a closer inspection readily shows
that the goodness of heart is very superficial, that the left hand is
often unjust while the right is generous, that a lie is no offence to
the conscience, if it be a good-natured one, and in short that very
little dependence can be placed on the uprightness that has no firmer
base than good-heartedness. Young persons of this sort are sometimes
led away to commit some act so base that their eyes are opened to the
dangers that beset the path in which they are travelling, and in sorrow
and dismay they turn to seek the way of innocence whence they had
wandered. Too often, however, the carelessness of youth passes into the
indifference of adult life and the callousness of old age. What can be
more revolting than an old age cold, hard, and selfish? Yet this is the
natural and almost unavoidable result of a youth that does not fix its
heart in unwavering love upon truth and purity,--whose aspirations are
not for those things which cannot grow old, and which the world can
neither give nor take away. A heart filled with love for excellence can
never grow old; for it will go on increasing in all that is lovely and
gracious so long as it lives; and where there is perpetual growth of the
faculties there can be no decay. We grow old, not by wear, but by rust;
and we can never become the prey of rust while our faculties are kept
bright by the power and the exercise of earnest love. The fleshly body
must grow old and die, for it is of the earth earthy; but it is by our
own weakness and indolence if our spiritual body ever gathers a wrinkle
on its brow. When the fleshly body drops from us, what must be our
shame and our despair if we rise in a spiritual body deformed with evil
passions, or corrupt with the leprosy of sin. Too many, alas! spend all
their energies in feeding and clothing and sheltering the natural body,
leaving the spiritual body hungry and naked and cold. We sometimes hear
wonder expressed that a mind thus starved has become super-annuated and
doating, while the body still carries on its functions with vigor; but
had the body been treated with a similar neglect, it would have long
before returned to the dust. The growth of the spiritual body should be
continuous from the cradle through eternity; and seldom can any other
reason, than our own neglect, be assigned for its disease or decay. The
bread of life is perpetually offered for its support, and if it refuses
to eat, its death is on its own head.

Infants who pass into the spiritual world before they are touched by a
taint of earth are, probably, through the absence of all evil in those
who are suffered to approach them, trained into a purity of Affection
that fills their whole being with its genial warmth, descending, or
raying out, into all the imaginations of the soul and all the thoughts
of the mind. Thus they serve God in the order which the Saviour
commanded, with all the heart, and soul, and mind. They, however, who
remain long on earth, almost without exception, have the order of their
nature so reversed, that their powers must be converted to the right,
in the order of St. Paul, ascending from the lowest to the highest; or,
which is the same thing, passing from the outmost to the inmost. The
lowest and most external part of the being must be made obedient to the
laws of Divine Order, and on this as a foundation must the higher and
internal nature be built up, until it forms a sanctuary; and upon its
altar shall fire from heaven descend so often as a gift is offered.

The practice of external vice, just in proportion to its grossness,
incapacitates us for perceiving what is true or loving what is good. By
vice is not meant crime such as exposes us to punishment by the law
of the land, but sins against the laws of God, that bring their own
punishment with them, by defacing the image of God in the soul. There is
always need of searching the heart to find if we have committed crimes
against the soul; for the laws of the land deal only with the excessive
derelictions from right which we cannot ignorantly commit. We may,
however, go on unconsciously in the commission of great sins until our
hearts become hardened against all emotions of heavenly affection, and
our eyes blinded so that we cannot distinguish the difference between
darkness and light. If we would avoid this fearful condition, we must
often go to the Gospels, and place the words of the Lord, in their
various teachings, especially as they come to us from the Mount, as it
were in judgment over against us, and reading verse by verse, fathom the
depths of our hearts, and confess whether we are guilty or no. Would we
escape such guilt, we must study these instructions again and again,
until, as Moses commanded of the laws of the elder Scripture, "they
shall be with us when we sit in our homes, or walk by the way, or lie
down, or rise up. And we shall bind them for a sign upon our hands, and
they shall be as frontlets between our eyes. And we shall write them
upon the posts of our houses, and upon our gates."

When we place the words of the Lord in judgment over against us, and
feel compelled to acknowledge our unfaithfulness to their requirements,
there is danger of our falling into despair through the consciousness
that is thus forced upon us of our want of love for the law of the Lord.
The indulgence of our own wills is so sweet to us, that we cannot see
how it is possible that the yoke of the Lord can ever become easy to our
stiffened necks. We feel as though an obedience that did not spring from
true love could not be called obedience, nay, was almost a sin; for it
seems to savor of hypocrisy. In this state of mind, our only refuge is
in that faith which St. Paul tells us "is the substance of things hoped
for, the evidence of things unseen"; and then, unless this faith be
strong enough to make us obey, though not from love, yet from a simple
belief that at any rate obedience is better than disobedience, our state
is wretched indeed. Our rationality tells us that obedience is naught
unless we love to obey, but an inward conviction of the soul--may we not
call it the voice of God?--entreats us, saying, "this do, and thou shalt
live." If, in the ardor of our faith, we can forget our rationality, and
cry, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief"; and if we force
ourselves to do that which we are commanded, though at first it may
appear to us an act purely external and dead, we shall soon find, that,
if planted in darkness, it is still a living seed, and the Lord will
water it till it shall spring into a growth of beauty that our hearts
will cleave to with delight.

The first obedience of the soul that has entered upon the way of
regeneration is hardly less ignorant than that of the little child who
obeys his parent without comprehending the use or propriety of his
commands; and, like that of the little child, it consists in abstaining
from doing that which is wrong, rather than in doing that which is
right. As the child grows older, he can look back upon those commands
and understand them; and then he is filled with gratitude and love
towards his parent for putting them upon him. So he who seeks to love
the Lord must obey first, and understand afterward,--must keep the
commandments ere he can know the doctrines,--must abstain from doing
wrong before the Lord can implant in his heart the love of doing right.

In the first stages of regenerating life we think we love the Lord,
although we know that we do not love our fellow-beings as we ought; and
we cannot comprehend the truth, that he who does not love his brother,
whom he has seen, cannot love the Lord, whom he has not seen; and we
think it is much easier to be pious towards God than to be charitable
towards men. If our faith is strong enough to induce us to obey the
external commandment of doing as we would be done by, the affection of
true brotherly love by degrees grows up within us, we know not how, for
the spirit of God has breathed upon us when we were not aware; and then
we perceive how imperfect was the love we bore to the Lord, when we had
not learned to feel that the attribute which awakens true love for him
is the perfect love he bears towards each one of us, and that we can
appreciate this love only so far as we imitate it by feeling willing to
do all the good we can to every neighbor, without distinction of person,
after the manner in which he causes the sun to shine and the rain to
fall alike upon the evil and upon the good.

To live thus in charity with all men is not to do external acts of
benevolence indiscriminately to all, without respect of person. There
is a common, but erroneous, idea in the world, that simply to give is
charity. To live what many esteem a life of charity, that is a life
of indiscriminate giving, is often to pay a bounty upon idleness and
improvidence, and to furnish the means of vicious indulgence. While
remembering the command to give to those who ask, we must not forget the
prohibition against casting pearls before swine. To give good things
to those we have reason to suppose will abuse them is as wrong as to
withhold our gifts from those who would use them. To give ignorantly,
when we know not the value of the claim upon our benevolence, is at best
but a negative virtue, and we should bear in mind that everything we
bestow upon the unworthy is so much abridged from our means of aiding
the worthy. Many persons seem to suppose that charity consists entirely
in alms-giving, while this is only its lowest form. Kind deeds and kind
words are as truly works of charity as pecuniary gifts, and we do not
lead lives of charity unless we are as ready with those in the home
circle and in our social relations as with these among the poor. God
shows his love to his children by providing them with sustenance for
the body, for the intellect, and for the affections, and if we would
resemble him, we must show our love to the neighbor by being always
ready to minister to the wants of those around us, in whatever form they
may arise.

We are told to give even as we receive, and we are also told that we are
stewards of the Lord; that is, that all our gifts are held in trust from
him; and we must use them in such a way that at his coming he may
find his own with usury. True charity never impoverishes. In outward
possessions it would be hard to find a man who has made himself poor by
acts of benevolence, for a just and wise benevolence is almost sure to
be accompanied by an orderly development of the faculties such as in our
country makes prosperity almost certain. In intellectual attainments
most persons are familiar with the fact, that there is no way by which
we can so thoroughly confirm and make clear in our own minds anything
that we know, as by imparting it to another. In all that relates to the
affectional part of our being, none can doubt that we grow by giving.
The more we love, the more we find that is lovely; and it is only in
proportion as we love that we can learn to comprehend that God is
infinitely powerful by reason of his infinite love. If we would make our
one talent two, or our five talents ten, the best way to do it is by
giving of all that we have to those who are poorer than ourselves.

Every person has within him three planes of life, which constitute his
being, and which, during the progress of regeneration, are successively
developed; viz., the natural, the spiritual, and the heavenly. With
those who lead an externally good life on the natural plane, that
is, who act more from the impulses of a kind disposition or a blind
obedience than from the light of Christian truth, charity consists
merely in supplying the natural wants of the neighbor by making him more
comfortable in his external condition; and this is well, for there is
little, if any, use in trying to improve the inner man while the outer
is bowed down with want or squalid with impurity. This is the basis
of the higher planes of charity, the first in time, though lowest in
degree. There are those who think lightly of this form of charity,
because it is lowest in degree, forgetting that it is absolutely
essential as a basis for everything that is higher. This truth may be
illustrated by the duties of the parents of a family. It is easy to
perceive that the highest duty of parents is the spiritual training
of their children, that the second is to give them an intellectual
education, while the third and lowest is to feed and clothe and shelter
their bodies. This duty towards the body, although lowest in degree, is
first in time; and ministering to the wants of the natural bodies of
their children, that they may grow up strong and healthy, is the
first duty to be performed in order to insure, so far as possible,
a trustworthy basis on which to build up their spiritual bodies. It
should, however, be distinctly kept in mind that this is only the lowest
plane of parental duty, and that to rise no higher is, as it were, to
lay a solid foundation with labor and expense, and then leave it with no
superstructure, a monument of folly.

From this class of charitable persons come those who found institutions
and lead reforms having in view the amelioration of the physical
condition of the human race. In regarding this as the lowest class, no
disrespect towards it is intended, for it is absolutely essential as a
basis to the higher; but this foundation should be recognized as such by
the founder in order that he may adapt it to the superstructure, and
not elaborate the former at the expense of the latter. The parent may
squander his means upon fine clothes and sumptuous fare until he has
nothing left for the intellectual education of his children; the State
may build palaces for the physical comfort of its paupers and criminals,
until there is nothing left in the treasury to construct schoolhouses
and colleges for the mental training of its virtuous children; the
philanthropist may so bestow his charities that the recipient will learn
to feel that it is the duty of the rich to support the poor, and so
become a pauper when he might have been a useful citizen.

With those whose brotherly love is of the second, or spiritual, degree,
charity is founded on the love of right, the love of giving to all their
just due. Those of the first class will, perhaps, deem those of the
second cold, yet a close observation will show that in the end more good
is done to society through the efforts of the latter than of the former.
Where the generosity of the first would reform the condition of a
miserable neighborhood, by giving the sufferers food and raiment and
shelter, the justice of the second would say all men should have the
means of acquiring a support for themselves, and his efforts would be
turned to providing employment, and encouraging a spirit of industry
among the poor. Where the first would build almshouses and hospitals,
the second would build factories and workshops. The first would lavish
all that he had in direct gifts to the poor, and then have nothing
more in his power to do for them, while the second, by husbanding his
resources at first, would be able presently to place them beyond the
need of aid. The first will be so generous today that it will be hard
for him to be just tomorrow, while the second, by doing only justice
now, gains power to bring about the most generous results hereafter.

This second degree of charity or brotherly love should not ignore or
contemn the first, but build itself upon it. Justice must not forget
mercy. The poor must not be suffered to starve before work can be
provided for them, or they be taught to do it. One Christian virtue does
not destroy that which lies beneath it, but rises to its true height by
standing upon it. We do not pull away the base of a structure because we
wish its top to be more elevated.

The third, or heavenly, degree of charity results from love to the
Lord. This is the highest possible form of charity, and through its
development man is brought into connection with the highest heavens. The
first form of charity comes in great measure from a love of self. We
obey its impulses because of our own personal distress at witnessing the
distress of others; and where unrestrained by higher principle,
these impulses often compel us to be unjust today because we were
over-generous yesterday. The second form of charity results from true
brotherly love, that leads us to restrain impulse because principle puts
it in our power to do so much more for those who need our aid. The third
form is the fruit of love to the Lord. It is warmer than the first and
wiser than the second. It develops the whole power of man, both rational
and affectional, by leading him to the eternal source of all power,
whence cometh down to us all capacity to think and to love. Quickened by
love to the Lord, we shall perpetually feel that we are his stewards,
and while we are filled with gratitude towards him, as the giver of
every good thing we possess, we shall equally be filled with desire to
give even as we have received, good measure, running over, and shaken
together. Then we shall feel, that, if we would lead lives of true
charity, it must be by imitating the Lord, who showed forth his love
towards his children, first by giving them the earth and all that it
contained as an inheritance; secondly, by giving them the Word of his
divine truth to teach them the way in which they should walk; and
thirdly, by coming in person to show them the reality of a divine
life. Finitely imitating this infinite example, as we advance in the
regeneration of our Affections, we shall first give of our external
possessions from the love of giving, and from a desire to make ourselves
happy by seeing others so. Next, we shall give from the knowledge of
truth that is in us, working with such wisdom as we possess, to help
others to make themselves happy. Finally, love to God will lead us to
perceive that charity in the highest degree is the leading a good life;
and that he who is pure and holy and faithful is a living form of
charity. While this state does not destroy, but fills full the two
preceding ones it will perhaps diminish rather than increase the general
action of the life upon society, because its tendency is to increase our
earnestness in the performance of the immediate duties of life that are
included in the family circle, and in all that relates to the particular
occupation of the individual. This is the natural result of an interior
love to the Lord; for this makes us feel his immediate presence in all
the circumstances of daily life, and so causes us to look upon the duty
that lies nearest as that one which the Lord wishes us to perform first;
and till that is done, prevents our seeking out duties more remote and
less apparent.

In studying the material manifestations of the Divine Love and Wisdom,
we find that the perfection of each minutest part is a type of the
perfection of the great whole. So in the material works of man, every
whole thing approaches perfection just in the degree that its several
parts are perfect; and it is vain to labor for great results while we
overlook minute details. So in life, society can never be a virtuous
and happy whole until each individual, in his special vocation, fulfils
every duty pertaining to his station. If we would perform our quota of
the great whole, we must, each in his place, fulfil the duties that lie
around us; and we must beware how we go out of our way in pursuit of
duty, unless we are confident that we are not neglecting, or perhaps
trampling upon, a duty that lies directly in our path.

There is especial danger, at the present day, that many of us may need
to be warned like the scribe of old, wearied with his task-work, not
to seek great things for ourselves. As Baruch murmured because he must
again and again write out the words of Jeremiah, so we cry out wearily
at the daily recurring duties of life, and would fain seek some great
thing whereby to show forth our devotion to the truth. This is because
our love to the Lord is not yet strong enough to regenerate our
Affections. In proportion as this is accomplished, duty will become
lovely to us, because it is what the Lord sets before us to do. We all
know how pleasant it is to do the will of those whom we most love on
earth, and so would it be supremely delightful to us to do our duty if
we had a similar love for our Father in Heaven.

As the little coral insect, obeying the blind instinct of its nature,
adds particle to particle, and builds a house for itself at the same
time that it helps to construct a continent; so we, obeying the voice of
God, in every little duty, performed not grudgingly, but with the heart,
are adding something to our eternal mansions, and helping to enlarge the
bounds of heaven.


"Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person
of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy
neighbor."--LEVITICUS xix. 15.

"There is but one thing of which I am afraid, and that is

"Work! and thou shalt bless the day,
Ere thy task be done;
They that work not, cannot pray,
Cannot feel the sun.

"Worlds thou mayst possess with health
And unslumbering powers;
Industry alone is wealth--
What we do is ours."

* * * * *

Thought, Imagination, and Affection, combined harmoniously, constitute
a symmetrical Character, and they should manifest themselves in an
external Life of corresponding symmetry. The external Life will always
fall short of the internal, because we can always imagine a degree of
excellence beyond that which we have reached, let our efforts be earnest
and active as they may; and the more we advance in Christian progress,
the wider will the vista open before us of that which we may yet attain.
As we ascend the heights of worldly knowledge, in whatever department,
the horizon widens at every step; and we always know that the horizon,
distant as it may seem, is only an imaginary limit to that which may be
known. The shallow student, in the inflation of self-conceit, may fancy
that his own narrow valley is the limit of the universe; but the wise
man knows that limitation belongs only to his own organization, and not
to the universe of God. So in the training of Character, we may go on in
our progress, not only through time, but through the measureless periods
of eternity, and yet we know that we can never reach that perfection of
development which belongs to the All-perfect.

Among the insane dreamers of the earth, those are found who deem
themselves enjoying light sufficient to live lives of perfection, even
in this dim morning twilight that lies around us on earth; but it is
their bat-like vision which takes for noonday that which, were their
eyes couched, would seem to them but darkness visible. He who fancies
that he leads a perfect life is but a dreamer concerning things of which
he has no true knowledge.

Perfection is, nevertheless, the object at which we should patiently and
steadfastly aim, and the loftiness of the mark, unattainable though it
be, will shed an ennobling influence on those who strive. The mass of
human beings aim at nothing higher than to be as virtuous as, or a very
little more so than, their neighbors; and are often more than contented
when they think they have reached the low mark at which they aim. To
compare ourselves with our fellow-beings is always dangerous, and leads
to envyings, rivalries, pride, and vainglory. In all our aims, the
absolute should be our only mark. If in intellectual pursuits we strive
only to know as much as our neighbors for the sake of decency, or to
know more than they for the gratification of pride, or for the pursuit
of wealth or honor, we shall never reach so high a point as if we
studied without ever stopping to compare ourselves with any one; but
worked right on, incited simply by the desire of knowing all that our
capacities and opportunities would enable us to acquire. Working thus,
we should go on our way rejoicing, our hearts embittered by no envyings,
inflated by no conceit. Comparing what we know with that which we do not
know, we could never become vain of our acquirements, for we must always
feel that what we know is but the beginning of that which remains to be

So in Life, if we compare our own lives with the lives of our neighbors,
we shall be envious and jealous, or else self-conceited and proud; and
our efforts will probably soon slacken, and then cease; and then we
shall begin to go down hill, at the very moment, perhaps, when we are
taking credit to ourselves for our rapid, or our finished, ascent. If,
on the other hand, we compare our lives with that absolute perfection
which the Lord sets before us as our model, we shall incur the danger of
none of these vices; and though the greatness of our task may well cause
us to "work in fear and trembling," we shall ever be cheered by the
consciousness that "the Lord worketh within us both to will and to do."

When our characters take form in external Life, Thought must give us
discrimination, Imagination must give us courage, and Affection must
give us earnestness; then our external nature will be the transparent
medium through which the internal nature will shine, with a lustre
undiminished by the opacity which is sure to dim its radiance when
dulness, fearfulness, or indolence inheres with the external nature;
for then it forms a husk to hide, instead of a medium to display, the
workings of the inner being.

The powers that have been treated of in the preceding essays are
sometimes found to work well so long as they work upon abstractions; but
so soon as they are required to work upon the daily Life, they fail of
reaching so high a point of excellence as we think we had reason to
anticipate. This results from the want of either discrimination,
courage, or earnestness; and the inner nature cannot be thoroughly
trained until these faculties are so developed by its life-giving power,
that their weakness ceases to interfere with its movements when it seeks
to manifest itself in external Life.

Thought can discriminate abstractions long before it can discriminate
facts in their relations with Life. It can reason logically of the true
and the false in the realms of the mind long before it can tell the
right from the wrong with correctness and readiness in the daily
ongoings of events. To discriminate justly here, we must be able to
dissipate the mists with which the love of self and the love of the
world obscure the way in which we tread; hiding that which we _ought_
to love, and displaying in enlarged proportions the things that we _do_
love, until reason loses all just data, and accepts whatever passion
offers as foundation for its judgments. Persons thus misled, often think
they really meant to walk steadfastly in the right path, and that they
are not responsible for having wandered into the wrong. They call what
they have done an error of judgment, and rest content in the belief that
their intentions were good, and therefore they are not to blame. This
may be true, for "to err is human," and none but the All-wise can be
sure of always judging rightly. Still, when we know that we have done
wrong through an error of judgment, we should carefully examine and see
if we might not have avoided this mistake had we been more careful
in our investigation of facts,--more conscientious in our process of
adopting our opinions. If we thus catechized our past errors, we should
probably find, that, in a large proportion of cases, our error sprang
from some cause we might have prevented,--from carelessness, from
blindness caused by the desire to gratify our own wishes, or from
indolence; in fact, that what we fancied sprang from an error of
judgment only, had a much deeper root, and drew its nourishment from
undisciplined Affections.

In training the faculty of discrimination, the work we must set before
ourselves is to learn the relative value of principles, of persons, and
of things; and in order to do this, we must look upon them in their
relations with time and with eternity. We must learn to value and to
judge from laws of absolute right, and not from the expediencies of the

Protestants quote with horror the Romish maxim, that, "for a just
cause, it is lawful to confirm equivocation with an oath," yet the
same principle lurks within their own bosoms, inciting many a
well-intentioned soul to "do evil that good may come of it." The two
maxims are twin sisters, and children of the father of lies. Persons who
think they have delicate consciences not unfrequently tell what they
call small lies, or lies of expediency, in order that some good may come
of it, which they esteem so great that it overbalances the evil of the
falsehood. This class of persons is very numerous, and of all degrees,
running from the mother who deludes her child into being a "good boy"
by the promise of punishment or of favor that she has no intention of
bestowing, to the juror who swears to speak the truth, and then affirms
that a guilty man is innocent, fancying that it is less a sin for him
to commit perjury than for the powers that be to commit what he calls
oppression, injustice, or legal murder. This willingness to commit one
sin, in order to prevent our neighbor from committing another, is a form
of brotherly love we are nowhere enjoined to practise; it springs
from an overweening self-love, that believes itself too pure to be
contaminated by a small sin, while it forgets that a wilful disobedience
of one commandment is in its essence disobedience towards the whole law.
All who do evil that good may come of it, in any department of life,
belong to this same class of persons. They ever look upon the sins of
their neighbors with a sharper eye than they turn upon their own;
and ever hold themselves in readiness, by "righteous indignation,"
intemperate zeal, and wisdom beyond, that which is written, to do battle
for the Lord with weapons he has forbidden us to use, and to set the
world in order by means and principles in direct opposition to his laws.

No one could be guilty of such sins who possessed a discriminating
sense of right and wrong; such a sense as is derived from receiving the
teachings of the Lord in simplicity of heart, and never presuming to set
aside his commandments in order to place our own in their stead. His
commands to refrain from doing evil are explicit, and without reserve,
and he who ventures to call in question their universal application is
sharpening a weapon for the destruction of his own soul.

The commands of the Lord are infinite principles, and in their natural
and simple deductions cover all the acts of Life having any moral
bearing, from the greatest to the least; and it is not the wisdom,
but, the foolishness, of man, not his depth, but his shallowness, that
endeavors to limit their significance and their application. We shall
find that our vain attempts to do this occasion almost all our errors of
judgment. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple,"
and he who is implicitly guided by it can alone walk surely; for he
only has an unfailing guide in his endeavors to distinguish accurately
between right and wrong.

If we learn to discriminate principles wisely, our next step is to apply
a similar action of the thoughts to persons; and here again it is to the
laws of absolute good and evil we must look for light. We must learn to
respect persons for what they are, and not for their position, their
reputation, or their worldly possessions. If we are really aiming to
train our own characters in accordance with the laws of absolute right,
we shall be likely to respect in others the attributes we seek in our
own persons. In all other efforts, there is too often envy and jealousy
among those who strive; but with those who seek true excellence, whether
intellectual or moral, _for its own sake_, and not from love of the
world, there is always pure brotherly love; and a perpetual delight is
experienced in the contemplation of excellence wherever it is found.

In our estimate of the relative value of things, the same laws are
called into action. If we would value them aright, we shall seek first
those which aid us in improving and educating our characters, or which
enlarge our powers of usefulness, and be comparatively indifferent to
things which are external, and contribute only to the pleasure of the

True discrimination may be defined as the faculty by which we justly
estimate the value and the relations of principles, of persons, and of
things; and so far as we attain to it, the power of wise Thought is
ultimated in Life.

Courage, the buoyant child of Imagination, is the next faculty which we
must duly cultivate, if we would use the talents God has bestowed upon
us to the best advantage. It is common to look upon courage as a natural
endowment, and few persons seem to be aware that it is a moral trait we
are bound to cultivate. Yet when we consider how the want of courage
interferes with our powers of usefulness, we cannot doubt that
conscience should have force to make brave men and women of us all. In
the various relations of life there is nothing that so paralyzes the
powers as fear. They who are the subjects of fear are slaves, let their
position or their endowments be what they may. The want of courage in
practical life brings failure, casualty, and even death, in its train:
intellectually, it robs us of half our power; morally, it puts us in
bondage to our fellow-beings; and religiously, it leaves us without

Hope and fear are alike children of the Imagination; but how different
is their aspect! Fear walks through the world with abject gait,
searching constantly after something of which it may be afraid; for,
like all the other faculties, it perpetually demands food, and if it
finds it not in the world around, imagines it in the world within. Few
persons, perhaps none, are fearful in every department of life; but
almost every one is so in some particular relations. Just so far as we
succumb to fear, we lose the control of our powers, and lie at the feet
of circumstance instead of cooperating with it, and making it subserve
our benefit. Hope, on the contrary, finds cause for joy everywhere, and
when surrounded by gloom sees, in imagination, the dawn that must come
even after the blackest night, and is buoyed up by the remembrance,
that, though "sorrow may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning."
Where fear sees nothing but the black clouds that threaten coming
storms, hope looks through them to the bow of promise. Hope is the
internal principle of true courage. St. Paul, in his beautiful
description of charity, tells us that it "hopeth all things"; and we may
easily perceive how it must be so, for the external form of charity
is love to the neighbor, which leads us to hope all things for our
fellow-beings; while its internal form, which is love to God, must lead
us to hope all things for ourselves. The devils believe and tremble
because they hate God; the devout believe and hope because they love

Let us consider courage specially in its four principal
relations,--physical, intellectual, moral, and religious.

Physical courage,--the courage of practical life,--though it seems the
lowest form of this virtue, is perhaps quite as rare as either of the
others. There is abundance of fool-hardiness, of brutal rashness,
indifferent to all consequences, in the World; but very little of that
calm, self-possessed courage that leaves to one the full use of his
faculties in the midst of danger, and allows him to act wisely, even
when meeting death face to face. The only sure foundation for this form
of courage is unshrinking trust in the overruling power of God,--a trust
that shall make us feel his providence ever clasping its arms about us
in all the circumstances of life, causing us ever to bear in mind, that
he who watches the fall of the sparrow cannot permit us to perish or to
suffer by chance. This trust will give us power to meet the prospect of
death with calmness, let it threaten in what form it may, whether the
summons come in the crash of the shattered car, the bowlings of the
ocean-storm, the flash of the lightning, or the quiet of our own
chamber. We shall feel that the hand of God is in, or over, them all;
and when danger threatens, our faculties will rather be quickened than
diminished by the consciousness, that, in times of emergency, if we look
to him, he will be the more abounding in pouring his grace upon us to
supply our need. Calm, self-possessed courage comes to us the moment we
lean upon God for strength; while we are rendered helpless by fear, or
rash by arrogance, if we look only to ourselves.

There are those who would feel that they were passing away by the will
of God, if disease came to them with slowly wasting hand, and would meet
his will, coming in that form, with meekness and patience; perhaps, with
willingness: and yet were they called to die by sudden casualty, would
pass into eternity, shrieking with terror. Much of this fear of sudden
death is a mere physical passion, arising from a mistaken idea that
there must be great pain in a death by violence; and some even, in spite
of the direct teaching of the Lord to the contrary, look upon such a
death as a manifestation of the wrath of God against the individual. Yet
there is, in fact, much less suffering in most deaths by casualty than
by prolonged disease; while in many such there is probably entire
freedom from suffering. The mercy of God, no less than his power, is
everywhere, and in all forms of death, no less than in life; and were
our love for him as universal as his for us, we could no more fear
while remembering that we are in his hands, than the infant fears while
clasped to its mother's breast.

The possession of this trust in God, because it makes one calm in all
positions and under all emergencies, is the surest of all safeguards
against danger. How often, in the shocking records of disaster by land
and water, is the loss of life directly traceable to the want of that
true courage that retains self-possession everywhere, and under all
circumstances, giving the power to ward off threatening danger, even
when it seems most imminent and irresistible. In pestilence, the
terrified are the first to fall victims to the scourge, while none walk
so securely as those who possess their souls in quietness.

Intellectual courage,--the courage of thought--comes second in the
ascending scale. As physical courage gives us the ability to use our
faculties with the same freedom in the most imminent danger as we should
with no alarming circumstance to excite us, making us as it were to rise
above circumstance, so intellectual courage gives us the power to think
with independence, just as we should if we did not know the opinion of
another human being upon the subject which engages our thoughts.

Persons having an humble estimate of their own abilities are apt to take
their opinions, without reserve, from those whom they most respect,
without making any effort on their own part to judge for themselves
between truth and falsehood. If this were right, it would take all
responsibility in relation to matters of thought from this class of
persons; yet every human being must be responsible for the opinions he
holds. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying we took our opinion from
another, and it is his fault if it be false. Each one must be prepared
to answer for his own opinions, just as he must be responsible for his
own actions.

Persons of a combative disposition take just the opposite course from
this, and adopt opinions merely because they are opposed to some
particular person or to some class of persons. Such persons fancy
themselves very independent, and announce their opinions with a movement
of the head, that seems to say, "You see I am afraid of nobody, and dare
to think for myself." There is, however, quite as little independence
in adopting an opinion because somebody else does not think so, as
in accepting it because he does. Independence of thought is thinking
without any undue regard to the opinion of any one else, one way or the

A third class of persons, having large love of approbation, is very
numerous. These are unwilling to express any opinion in conversation
until they have ascertained the views of the person they address; cannot
tell what they think of a book until they know what the critics say;
and seem to have no idea of truth in itself, but look merely to please
others by changing their opinions as often as they change their
companions. There are many authors of this class who, in writing,
strive only to please the vanity of the reader by presenting him with a
reflection of his own ideas; and whose constant aim is to follow public
opinion, instead of leading it. They do not care whether the ideas they
promulgate are true or false, if they are but popular; and if they fail
to please, are filled with chagrin, and sometimes have even died of

A fourth class of persons, possessed of strong self-esteem, arrive at
independence of thought through pride of intellect, and this is even
more dangerous than to depend upon others for our opinions; for of all
idolatry, there is none so interior and hard to overcome as the worship
of self. If we would arrive at truth of opinion, we must be independent
of our own passions and prejudices no less than of our neighbor's.
There is but one source of truth, and whoever believes that he finds it
elsewhere is an idolater. The Lord has declared, "I am the way and the
truth and the life"; and it is only through him as the way that we can
find the truth, and we seek it through him when we love it because he is
the truth, and so seek it for its own absolute beauty and excellence,
desiring to bring it out into life.

Look where we may along the pages of history and the records of science,
it is the devout men who have been the successful promulgaters of new
ideas and searchers after truth. The scoffer and the infidel make great
boasts of their progress through their independence of Scripture; but in
a little while a devout man follows in their footsteps and proves that
their deductions are false, and that even their observations of facts
were not to be trusted. Scoffers and infidels come, promising to set the
world in order by subverting governments; but though they are quick
to pull down, they have no power to build up; and it is only when the
devout man comes, that the reign of anarchy and misrule ceases.

Common, daily life is the epitome of history. The devout man is the only
one whose opinions are trustworthy; and just so far as we become truly
devout will the scales that hinder us from seeing the truth fall from
our eyes. "If the eye be single," looking to the Lord alone, unbiassed
in its gaze by the thousand-fold passions of earth, "the whole body
shall be full of light."

Moral courage, the third phase of this virtue, is that faculty of the
soul by which we are enabled to act, in all the social relations of
life, with perfect independence of the opinions of the world, and
governed only by the laws of abstract propriety, uprightness, and
charity. It gives us power to say and to do whatever we conscienciously
believe to be right and true, without being influenced by the fear of
man's frown or the hope of his favor. This is very difficult, because
the customs and conventionalisms of society hedge us about so closely
from our very infancy, that they constrain us when we are unconscious of
it, and lead us to act and to refrain in a way which our better judgment
would forbid, did we consult its indications without being influenced by
the world.

It was a saying of a wise man, that "he who fears God can fear nothing
else"; and there is certainly no healthy way in which we can be
delivered from that fear of the world which destroys moral courage,
but the learning to fear, above all things, failing to fulfil our duty
before God. If we would have moral courage, we must accustom ourselves
to feel that we are accountable to God, and to him only, for what we do.
There is a spurious moral as well as intellectual courage, the offspring
of pride and arrogance, that pretends to independence in a spirit of
defiance of the opinion of the world; but this will never give us the
power to act wisely, for wisdom is ever the twin sister of charity
that loves the neighbor even while differing from him in opinion. True
courage of every kind is perfectly self-possessed, but never defiant. A
spirit of defiance springs from envy or hate if it be honest, and from
a consciousness of inferiority if assumed; and is sometimes only a
disguise self-assumed by fear, when it seeks to be unconscious of
itself. True moral courage results from the hope that we are acting
in harmony with the laws of eternal wisdom. Fear of every kind is
annihilated by a living hope that the Lord is on our side.

If we would test the quality of our moral courage, we must ask
ourselves, is it defiant? is it disdainful? is it envious? does it hate
its neighbor? or are its emotions affected in any way by the opinion of
the world? If we can answer all these questions in the negative, we must
go a step farther, and ask if we have gained a state of independence of
our own selfish passions, as well as of the world; for our most
inveterate foes, and those before whom we cower most abjectly, are often
those that dwell within the household of our own hearts. If the love of
ease or of sensual indulgence rules there, we need to summon our moral
courage to a stern strife, for there is no conquest more difficult than
over the evil affections that are rooted in our sensual nature. Wise
and good men have gone so far as to believe that this conquest is never
entire in this world; that the allurements of indolence and the gnawing
of sensual cravings are never quieted save when the body perishes. It
is, however, difficult to believe that passions exist in the body apart
from the soul, and if not, there can be no absolute impossibility of
conquest, even in this world. If this may be attained, it must be
through the building up of a true moral courage, that shall fight
believing that the sword of the Lord is in the hand of him who strives,
trusting in that eternal strength which is mighty even as we are weak.

Religious courage develops naturally in proportion as the growth of
moral courage becomes complete. Fear is nowhere so distressing as in our
relations with our Creator. That which is by nature best becomes worst
when it is perverted; and as the blessed hope to which, as children of
God, we are all born heirs, is in its fulness an infinite source of joy
and blessing to the soul, so when it is reversed and perverted into
fear, it becomes the source of unspeakable misery, sometimes resulting
in one of the most wretched forms of insanity.

The morbid state of the mind which induces this distressing passion is
the result of a peculiar form of egotism, which leads the thoughts
to fasten upon one's own evils so entirely that the mind ceases to
recognize, or even to remember, the long-suffering patience and mercy of
the Heavenly Father. A more common, but less painful form of this fear
is the result of vagueness in one's ideas of the Divine character and
attributes. The clear and rational views which Swedenborg has given of
the Divine Providence is undoubtedly the reason why religious melancholy
is almost never found among the members of the New Church. The peace in
believing, which is almost universal among this class of Christians,
is a subject of remark among those who observe them, wherever they are
found; and this arises, not merely from their not looking upon God as an
enemy and avenger who demands a perfect fulfilment of the letter of the
law, or infinite punishment for sin, either personally or by an atoning
Saviour; but from the possession of a distinct idea, imaged in their
minds, of the nature and the quality of the Divine Providence. Where
there is a tendency to any kind of fear, nothing increases it more than
the want of a distinct idea of the thing or person feared; because the
Imagination, which is always quick with the timid, is almost sure to
create something within the mind far more fearful than anything that
really exists. The greatest boon mankind ever received through a brother
man was the doctrine first promulgated by Swedenborg, that God has
respect even to our good intentions; and that he casts out none who
sincerely desire to be of his kingdom. If one distinctly believes this
doctrine, there is no rational ground in the mind for fear; because the
very fact of our desire for salvation--provided we understand salvation
to be a state of the mind, and not a mere position in a certain
place,--or something pertaining to our internal, and not to our
external, nature--makes it impossible that we should fail of attaining

If one is oppressed with religious fear, the way to escape from it is
to use every endeavor to attain a clear and distinct idea of the Divine
character, and to strive to bring one's self into harmony with it;--to
think as little as possible about one's own sins, and to train the
thoughts to dwell upon the Divine perfections, and cultivate an ardent
desire to imitate them. It is necessary to think of one's self enough
to refrain from the commission of external sins, and just so far and so
fast as we put away sin, the Lord will implant the opposite virtue in
its place, provided we put the sin away from love to him, and not from
any selfish or worldly motive. This state of active cooperation with the
Lord is something very different from that into which one falls who is
the subject of religious fear, and cannot exist in company with it. The
religious coward can only overcome his fear by remembering that God is
not a tyrant who demands impossibilities of his slaves, but a Father of
infinite love, who would make his children eternally happy; and who, in
order that they may become so, gives them every means and every aid that
they will receive. He must not suffer his heart to sink within him by
thinking of his own weakness, but must elevate it by thinking of the
infinite power of him who has called us to salvation. Above all things,
he must not fall into reveries about himself, but seek to forget self in
the active performance of duty.

The performance of duty, the fulfiling of use, which, rightly
understood, is the universal panacea against all the troubles and
sorrows of this life, is too often a fearful bugbear in the eyes of
those who understand it not. This subject, however, brings us to the
third and last topic to be discussed under the head of Life. The love of
duty, to be effectual or real, must be earnest; for earnestness is the
certain result of living Affection. Through this, all our other powers
and faculties ultimate themselves in external Life. Earnestness is the
exact opposite of indolence. It is the external motive power, just as
Affection is the internal motive power,--the body, of which Affection is
the soul. Without earnestness, all our other powers come to naught, and
we live in vain; with it, our other endowments become alive, and ready
to impress themselves upon the external world. Indolence is a rust,
corroding and dulling all our faculties; earnestness, a vitalizing
force, quickening and brightening them. By earnestness, alone, can we
climb upward in that progress which, begun in time, pauses not at the
grave, but passing through the portal of death, goes eternally on in the
same direction which we chose for ourselves here, ever approaching more
nearly to the Divine perfection, whose life is the unresting activity of
infinite love. By indolence, we sink ever lower and lower, and through
a continuous process of deterioration, grow each day more unfit for the
heavenly life, which all but the abandoned, and perhaps even they, fancy
they desire, even when refusing to use any of the means whereby it may
be gained.

In the circle of man's evil propensities, no one, perhaps, is a more
fruitful mother of wretchedness and crime than the propensity to
indolence. It is a common saying, that the love of money is the root
of all evil; but that root often runs deeper, and finds its life in
indolence, which incites those under its dominion to seek money through
unlawful means. The desire for money impels most men to constant effort,
and there is no reason for attributing a stronger desire to him who
steals or defrauds than to him who labors steadfastly, every day of his
life, from early dawn to eve; yet we praise the latter, and condemn the
former. It is not, then, the love of money that we condemn, but the
desire to attain it by vicious means; and such desire results from a
hatred for labor, which is the only legitimate means by which it may be
gained. Money in itself is but dead matter, serving only as a minister
to some end beyond; and the simple desire for it is neither good nor
bad: the end for which it is desired elevates the desire itself to a
virtue, or degrades it to a vice; and the means which we adopt for
obtaining it, and the purposes to which we apply it, make it either a
blessing or a curse.

Every possession, whether moral, intellectual, or physical, is the
legitimate reward of labor wisely and earnestly applied; and for these
rewards the virtuous are content to labor without repining, and to them,
not only the rewards, but the labor itself, is blessed. The vicious,
on the contrary, desire the rewards, but hate the labor by which they
should be gained. They, therefore, accordingly as they belong to
different classes of society, simulate virtues which they do not
possess, pretend to acquirements they have been too idle to gain, or
strive after wealth by any means, rather than patient industry and
honest effort.

It is not the vicious alone who fail to perceive that labor is a
blessing from which a wise man can never fly. The curse applied to Adam,
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," has led many to suppose
that originally the wants of the human race were supplied without any
exertion of its own,--that in the garden of Eden there was enjoyment
without effort, possession without labor. Even in the pulpit, labor is
sometimes spoken of as a curse pertaining only to life in this world,
from which we shall be delivered in the life to come. Nothing can be
farther from the truth. Employment is the life of every soul, from
the Most High down to the least of his children. They only who are
spiritually dead, or sleeping, ask for idleness. It is man fallen who
looks on labor as a curse, not man walking with God in the garden of
Eden; and to man, when he has fallen, labor is indeed a curse, for his
soul is so perverted that he knows not the true nature and qualities of
a blessing.

Man, resting in thought or feeling, is at best a useless abstraction; he
becomes truly a man only when his thoughts and feelings come forth into
life, and impress themselves on outward things. If he fail to do this,
the rust of idleness eats into all his powers, till he becomes a useless
cumberer of the ground; the world loses, and heaven gains nothing when
this mortal puts on immortality. Such a being is dead while he lives--a
moral paralytic. His capacities are as seed cast upon a rock where there
is no earth.

God works incessantly. His eye knows no closing, his hand no weariness.
The universe was not only built by his power, but is sustained every
moment by his inflowing life. If he were to turn from it for a single
instant, all things would return to chaos. Man, created in the image and
likeness of God, resembles him most nearly when the life influent from
God which fills his soul, flows forth freely as it is given, quickening
with its powers all that comes within the influence of his sphere.

There is an old proverb that tells us, "Idleness is the devil's pillow";
and well may it be so esteemed, for no head ever rested long upon it,
but the lips of the evil spirit were at its ear, breathing falsehood and
temptation. The industrious man is seldom found guilty of a crime; for
he has no time to listen to the enticings of the wicked one, and he is
content with the enjoyments honest effort affords. It is the vicious
idler, vexed to see the fortunes of his industrious neighbor growing
while he is lounging and murmuring, who robs and murders that he may get
unlawful gain. It is the merry, thoughtless idler who, to relieve the
nothingness of his days, seeks the excitement of the wine-cup and the
gaming-table. It is the sensual idler, whose licentious ear is open to
the voice of the tempter as often as his track crosses the pathway of
youth and innocence.

Not only by reason of the external, palpable rewards which labor brings
is it to be considered a blessing; but every hour of patient labor,
whether with the hands, or in study, or thought, brings with it its own
priceless reward, in its direct effects upon the Character. By it the
faculties are developed, the powers strengthened, and the whole being
brought into a state of order; provided we do all things for the glory
of God. "But," exclaims the impatient heart, wearied with the cares of
daily life, "how can all this labor for the preservation and comfort of
the merely mortal body, this study of things which belong merely to the
material world, subserve in any way the glory of God?" It is by these
very toils, worthless and transitory as they may seem, that the
Character is built up for eternity; and so to build up Character is the
whole end for which the things of time were created. No matter how small
the duty intrusted to our performance, by performing it to the best
of our abilities we are fitting ourselves to be rulers over many
things,--to hear the blessed proclamation, "Well done, good and faithful
servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

We are prone, at times, to feel as though we were not placed in the
right niche; and that, if we were differently situated, and occupied
with employments more worthy our capacities, we should work with
pleasure and assiduity; but our present duties are so much beneath us,
it seems degrading to spend our time and thoughts upon them. Here is
a radical error of judgment, for it is not a high or low duty that
degrades or elevates man, but the performing any duty well or ill. It
is as true as it is trite, that the honor or shame lies in the mode of
performance, not in the quality of the duty. We all, perhaps, know and
say, and yet need to be reminded, that a bad president stands lower in
the scale of being than a good town officer; a wicked statesman, let
him occupy what social position he may, fills a lower place than a
conscientious slave who faithfully fulfils the duties of his station.

The first Church, represented by Adam, fell because it ceased to look to
the Lord as the source of all life and light, and looked only to itself
for all things. It thus lost all conception of the legitimate aim of
life. Seeking only the enjoyment of the present moment, labor seemed a
dire calamity; for the eternal end of labor, that is, the development
of the powers of the soul, so as best to fit it for the performance of
heavenly uses, passed out of the knowledge of man, and he learned to
look forward to heaven as a place of idle enjoyment; toiling sorrowfully
through this world, in the sweat of his face, for bread that, when
attained, gave him no true life. To eat bread in the sweat of the face
signifies by correspondences, to receive and appropriate as good only
that which self may call self-produced and self-owned; and to turn away
with aversion from that which is heavenly. This is precisely what we all
do when we shrink from, or despise, any labor which duty demands at our
hands. The Lord places us in that position in life which is best adapted
to overcome the evil dispositions of our nature, and to cultivate our
souls for heaven. Perhaps we have capacities that would enable us
to perform duties that would be considered by the world of a higher
character; but perhaps, on the other hand, we have vices that the Lord
is striving to overcome by placing us in this very position which so
frets and disgusts us. If we will but remember that the mercy and love
of the Lord strive to bless us by fitting us for heaven, and not by
making us eminent in the eyes of men, we shall probably find it much
easier to comprehend why we are placed as we are in this world. When we
torment ourselves by thinking of the inappropriateness of our position
in this world, we are always viewing our position with regard to this
world only, and therefore all things are dark to us. When we look humbly
to the Lord, and seek to find out the eternal ends of his providence in
the circumstances of our lives, gradually the scales pass from our
eyes, and at last we go in peace, seeing.

Beside the education of our powers and faculties, employment is a
blessing in helping us to bear the severest trials of this life. When
bereavement or disappointment overwhelms the soul with anguish, so that
this world seems only the dark habitation of despair; when we cannot see
the bow of promise in the black cloud that darkens our horizon; when we
feel that we are without God in the world,--and there are few if any
human beings who have not found themselves at some time in such a
state,--then, as we hope by the grace of God ever to escape from this
despair, we should fly idleness as we would fly the dagger or the
poisoned cup; and though grief be tugging at the heart-strings, though
our eyes are blinded with tears, we should set ourselves diligently
about doing something that may help to make others happy, and let no
duty go unperformed; and it will not be long ere the dimmed eyes shall
begin to see the glow of the sunshine above, and the earth radiant with
beauty below; while, so far from being deserted of God, we shall feel
that sorrow has brought us more distinctly than ever before into his

"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown."

What are the employments of heaven we cannot know with any
particularity. Swedenborg tells us that the angels are constantly
performing uses; but what these uses are we are not distinctly told. We
know that they correspond in some way to the employments of earth; but
really to understand them probably transcends our capacities while we
remain in the flesh. The conscientious performance of the material and
finite uses of this life is the only means by which we can prepare
ourselves for the spiritual and eternal uses pertaining to the heavenly
kingdom; uses which probably serve to comfort, nourish, and strengthen
the soul in eternity, as on earth the corresponding uses serve the wants
of the body.

In the spiritual world the spiritual body is fed, clothed, and sheltered
in much the same way, to appearance, as is the material body in the
natural world; but all the surroundings of the spirit correspond to the
state of each individual being, and are the direct gift of the Lord. All
the arts and trades of this life do not exist in the other, but as these
arts and trades, as well as everything else in this world, exist only
through their correspondence with something in the other world, it
follows that all the occupations of this life have not similar, but
corresponding, occupations in the other. The end of life in this world
is to fit the soul for entering upon the heavenly life, and the end
of life in heaven is perpetual advancement in spiritual graces and
perfections; for no angel, even in the highest heavens, has reached
a degree of perfection so high that he can go no further. The end of
heavenly life thus being infinite, the effort and employment of that
life must be ceaseless. In speaking of ceaseless effort, it must not be
understood that this resembles at all the wearying labor of a slave, or
that there is anything oppressive or forced about its performance; for
this could only be anticipated with dread. Heavenly employment must be
full of life and joy, bearing us upward like the wings of a skylark, as
he bathes in the sunlight of the upper ether, and carols forth his
joy. There will undoubtedly be a variety, too, in heavenly employment,
corresponding with our varying states, and making tedium impossible.
This may be illustrated by imagining what would be a perfect mode of
spending a day in this world. We wake in the morning refreshed by
repose, and as we look forth at the sun our spirits rejoice in the
beauty of the wakening day, and rise toward the heavenly throne in
prayer and praise. We set about the performance of our daily duties, and
Christian charity toward those for whose happiness or benefit, whether
physical or intellectual, we exert our powers, makes us faithful in
whatever we do, that it may be done to the best of our ability; and our
effort is lightened by the consciousness of duty done from pure and
upright motives. If we go forth for refreshment, communion with nature
and the God of nature fills our souls with peace, while the fresh air
gives new life to the frame. When the duties of the day are over, and
the family circle collects around the evening lamp, reading or
conversation awakes the powers of the heart and the intellect, and draws
more closely the bonds of the domestic affections. We retire for the
night, and ere composing ourselves to sleep, we collect our thoughts,
reflect upon the events of the day, examining what we have done well or
ill, and prepare by wise resolutions for future effort. We slumber, and
the repose of all our powers renews our strength for the coming morrow.
Through the whole of this twenty-four hours, employment has been
constant. There has been labor of the hands, labor of the head,
conversation, thought, prayer, sleep. Every part of the being has been
called into exercise; there has been no weariness from labor, and no
idleness; but every moment of this whole day has added its quota towards
promoting the growth of the whole being; and this is a heavenly day. The
more perfectly we can make the occupations of our days thus combine for
the growth of our being, the better we are preparing ourselves for the
days of heaven.

As the progress of the heavenly life will be infinite, the wants of our
spiritual natures must likewise be infinite. The heavenly life must be
a life of charity,--a life in which every soul will strive to aid every
other to the utmost; and the charities of heaven must strengthen and
comfort the soul in a manner corresponding to the aid material charities
effect in this world. Let it constantly be borne in mind, that charities
are duties well performed, of whatever kind they may be,--as well
the faithful fulfilment of an avocation as the aiding of a suffering
fellow-being. Charity is but another name for duty; or rather duty
becomes charity when we perform it from genuine love to the Lord and
to the neighbor; and whoever leads a life of charity in this world is
fitting himself to perform the higher charities that will be required of
him in heaven.

The true end and highest reward of labor is spiritual growth; and such
growth brings with it the most exalted happiness we are capable of
attaining. This happiness is the kingdom of heaven within us; and it is
the certain and unfailing reward, or rather consequence, of a life of
true charity. It is not difficult, by intellectual thought, to perceive
the truth of this doctrine; but this is not enough. We must elevate our
hearts into a wisdom that shall make us not only perceive, but feel and
love this truth. Until we can do this, we do not truly believe, though
we may think we do. If we fret and murmur; if we are impatient and
unfaithful; if, when we plainly see that our duty lies in one path, we
yet long to follow another; if we know that we cannot leave our present
position without dereliction from right, and yet hate or despise the
place in which we are; if we repine because God does not give us the
earthly rewards we fancy we deserve, though we well know he promises
only heavenly ones; if we do habitually any or all of these things, we
may know that our faith is of the lip, and not of the heart,--that
the life of charity is not yet begun within us. Such repinings, such
cravings as these do not belong nor lead to the heavenly kingdom.

He who thinks wisely can never live a life of idleness, and where there
is excessive indolence of the body there is never healthy action of the
mind. A life of use is a life of holiness; and a life of idleness is a
life of sin. He who performs no social use, who makes no human being
happier or better, is leading a life of utter selfishness; is walking in
a way that ends in spiritual death. In the parable of the sheep and the
goats, the King condemns those on the left hand, not because they have
done that which was wrong, but because they have omitted doing that
which was right.

No human being in possession of his mental faculties is so incompetent
that he can do nothing for the benefit of those around him. One
prostrate on a bed of sickness might seem, at first glance, incapable
of performing any use; and yet, not unfrequently, what high and holy
lessons of patient faith, of unwavering piety, are taught by such a
being,--lessons that can never die out from the memory of those who
minister at the couch of suffering. When the body lies powerless, and
the hand has lost its cunning, when even the tongue is palsied in death,
how often has the eye, still faithful to the heavenly Master, by a
glance of holy peace performed the last act of charity to the bereaved
ones whom it looks upon with the eye of flesh for the last time. So long
as life remains to us our duties are unfinished: God yet desires our
service on earth, and while he desires let us not doubt our capacity
to serve. Even for one in the solitude of a prison-cell, when acts of
charity become impossible, the duty of labor is not taken away. One may
still work for the Father in Heaven, though sitting in darkness, and
with manacled limbs. To possess the soul in patience, to be meek,
forgiving, and pious, are duties amply sufficient to tax the powers of
the strongest. There is no room for idleness even here.

To work is not only a duty, but a necessity of our nature, and when we
fancy ourselves idle, we are in fact working for one whose wages is
death. The question is never, Shall we work? but, For whom shall we
work? Whom shall we choose for our master? and our happiness here and
hereafter must depend on the answer we give to this question. We may
not deliberately put and deliberately reply to this question in stated
words; but our whole lives answer it in one long-continued period.
Those who labor steadfastly, with no end in view but the acquisition of
worldly, perishable advantages, answer it fearfully; but theirs is not
a more desperate reply than comes from the idler and the slothful.
Wherever there is activity and force there is hope; for though now
flowing in a wrong direction, the stream may yet be diverted into
channels that shall lead to eternal life. Where there is no activity,
where all the faculties of the soul are sunk in the lethargy of
indifference, as well may one hope to find living fountains gushing
forth into fertilizing streams amid the sands of the African desert. The
man of science tells us that living springs exist beneath these sands,
and that artesian wells might bring them to the surface; and so in the
inmost nature of man, however degraded he may be, Swedenborg tells
us there is a shrine that cannot be defiled, through which heavenly
influences may come down into his life, and yet save him, if he will
receive them ere he passes from this world; but when sloth has become
habitual and confirmed, there is almost as little room for hope that
this will ever take place as that artesian tubes will ever make the
Saharan desert a region of fertility.

The kingdom of evil is readily attained. We have but to follow the
allurements of the passions, and we shall surely find it; we have but to
fold our hands, and it will come to us. With the kingdom of eternal life
it is not so. That is a prize not easily won. Faithful, untiring effort,
looking ever toward eternal ends; a constant scrutiny of motives, that
they may be pure and true; an earnest, heartfelt, determined devotion
to the heavenly Master, to whose service we have bound ourselves by
deliberate choice, can alone make sure for us what we seek. For a long
time this may require labor almost painful, but if we persevere, our
affections will gradually become at one with our faith, the heavenly
life will become habitual, so as to be almost instinctive; and when the
celestial kingdom is thus established within us, no place will be left
for weariness, or doubt, or pain, or fear. CONVERSATION.

"He who sedulously attends, pointedly asks, calmly speaks, coolly
answers, and ceases when he has no more to say, is in possession of some
of the best requisites of man."--LAVATER.

"The common fluency of speech, in many men, and most women, is owing to
a scarcity of matter and a scarcity of words; for whoever is master of
a language, and has a mind full of ideas, will be apt, in speaking, to
hesitate upon the choice of both; whereas, common speakers have only
one set of ideas, and one set of words to clothe them in; and these are
always ready at the mouth; so people can come faster out of a church
when it is almost empty, than when a crowd is at the door."--SWIFT.

* * * * *

Of all the physical powers possessed by man, there is none so noble as
that of speech; none that distinguishes him so entirely from the brute;
yet how few there are who seem in any adequate degree to comprehend its
power and value, or who ever pause to reflect upon the sacrilegious
abuse to which it is often degraded.

Language is Thought and Affection in form, as works are Thought and
Affection in life. By language we receive the word of Divine Revelation,
and by language we approach the Divine Author of all things in prayer.
By language we are made happy in social life, through interchange of
thought and feeling with our fellow-beings. By language, man is made
lord of the terrestrial world. By language, the wisdom of past ages
becomes an inheritance for the whole earth, instead of perishing with
each possessor; and thus man advances from age to age, through the
experience of the past, instead of being obliged to work out all the
wisdom he gains by his own individual effort.

This is the bright and beautiful side of language; but on the other hand
is a dark and hideous side, when language becomes the foul and poisonous
medium through which the folly, the vice, and all the moral deformities
of humanity, are spread abroad through the world, and handed down
through the ages. The same medium that serves as a vehicle for heavenly
truth is the tool of the scoffing infidel; it is formed into prayer by
the saint, and into blasphemy by the sinner. Alternately, it serves the
purest and holiest uses, or the vilest and most atrocious abuses; now
formed to the sweet breathings of heavenly charity, and anon to the
harsh utterances of malignant hate.

These distinctions are wide and clear, and easily perceived by the most
obtuse or indifferent observer; but these distinctly marked varieties
pass into milder shades as they are exhibited in common Conversation,
and then a nicer observation is needful to detect the varieties of
hue that color language when used in the every-day forms of society.

The habitual use we make of language is the result of our own
characters, and it reacts upon them. It likewise acts upon those who are
about us with an unceasing power, repelling or attracting all whom we
approach. Every human being exerts a perpetual influence on every other
human being, with an activity as universal as that of gravity in the
material world; and language is one of the most efficient means of this
influence. Viewed in the light of these truths, common Conversation
becomes an object of serious consideration; and the mode of sustaining
it worthy of the deepest thought and of the most careful watchfulness.

Between the malignity of a fiend and the charity of an angel there is
a long interval of inclined plane, and those who walk there may seem a
company so mixed that they cannot be separated into two distinct bands;
but every individual of the throng is looking toward one or the
other extremity, and either ascending or descending in his course.
Conversation is the outbirth of our thoughts and affections, and it
shows their quality in the most direct manner possible. Actions are said
to speak louder than words, and to the appreciation of our fellow-beings
our lives are much truer and fuller expositions of our internal
natures than our Conversation; but before God, always, and before our
own consciences if we really look at ourselves, the insincere words that
deceive our fellow-beings stand unmasked,--the deformed exponents of the
falsehood of the soul. We can therefore understand the character of our
neighbor better by his actions than by his words; but to understand our
neighbor is of little importance compared with understanding ourselves;
and is chiefly useful because a comparison of individuals aids us in
comprehending our own natures. We can understand ourselves by our own
words if we will take the trouble to consider them dispassionately, and
analyze the thoughts and affections whence they spring.

So little honesty is believed to exist in ordinary Conversation, that
the saying of a witty courtier, that "language is the instrument whereby
man conceals his thoughts," has almost passed into a proverb. The
question, in which direction is the man walking who wraps duplicity
about himself as his constant garment, needs no answer; for all must
know that the Divine Being, whose form is truth, hateth a lie.

The first element in Conversation should be sincerity. Not the blunt
and harsh sincerity sometimes met with, which is made the cloak of
self-esteem and bitterness; for that is an evil of the same nature as
the malice and hatred that show themselves in active, outward injury
towards the neighbor. When excited by pride or anger, the tongue needs a
bridle no less than the hand; and when the heart can utter itself truly
only in the forms of such passions, silence is its only safeguard. In
speaking of the follies or vices of others, sincerity should be tempered
by a Christian charity, which, while it does not gloss over vice, does
not dwell upon it needlessly, nor take a malicious pleasure in spreading
it abroad, nor indulge self-complacency by dilating upon it, to give the
idea that one is superior to such things.

If such motives are allowed to have sway, a person soon becomes
confirmed in the habit of gossiping,--a habit that degrades alike the
intellect and the heart. The soul of gossip is a contemptible vanity
that imagines itself, or at least would have others imagine it, superior
to all that it finds of evil and absurdity in the characters of those
whom it passes in review. A very little observation will serve to show
any one that everybody sees his neighbors' faults, while very few open
their eyes upon their own; and that not unfrequently a person condemns
with the utmost vehemence in others precisely the same follies and vices
in which he himself habitually indulges. Those who study their own
characters with most care, and who best understand themselves, are apt
to say least of the characters of their neighbors; they find too much
to do within themselves, in curing their own defects, to have time or
inclination to sit in judgment upon the defects of others.

It is impossible to indulge habitually in this vice without weakening
the powers of the intellect. The heart never suffers alone from the
indulgence of any wrong passion. The intellect and the affections ever
sink as well as rise together. Where the love of gossip becomes a
confirmed habit, the mind loses its power of accurately appreciating the
value of Character,--of distinguishing truly between the good and the
bad. The power of discrimination is weakened and impaired, so that no
confidence can be placed in the opinions of the mind in relation to
Character or Life. In addition to this, we must bear in mind that
all the mental power we bestow in criticizing and ridiculing our
fellow-beings is just so much taken from our mental strength, which we
might have applied to some useful intellectual exercise. The strength
of the mind is no more indefinite than that of the body. We have but a
certain limited amount; and all that we apply to idle or bad purposes is
just so much abstracted from the good and the useful.

Sarcasm is a weapon we are almost sure to find constantly used by the
gossip; and whether it be shown in the coarse ridicule of the vulgar, or
the keen satire of the refined, it springs ever from the same source,
and is directed to the same end; as surely as the clumsy war-club of
savage lands was invented from the same impulse and wrought with the
same intent as the graceful blade of Damascus. Its source is vanity, its
end to make self seem great by making others seem little. It is a weapon
that, however skilfully wielded, always cuts both ways, wounding far
more deeply the hand that grasps it than the victim it strikes. Of all
the powers of wit, sarcasm is the lowest. There is nothing easier than
ridicule; nothing requiring a weaker head, or a colder heart.

The sincere lover of truth will never be found habitually indulging
either in gossip or sarcasm; for those who are addicted to these vices
never tell a story simply as they heard it, never relate a fact simply
as it happened. A little is added here or left out there to give the
story a more entertaining turn or the satire a keener point. As the
habit grows stronger, invention becomes more ready and copious, till at
length truth is covered up and lost under an accumulation of fiction.

There is a very common form of insincerity used by a class of
well-meaning but injudicious persons, who, rather than wound the
feelings of their friends, conceal the truth from them, sometimes by
prevarication and sometimes by positive falsehood; doing wrong, that, as
they imagine, good may come of it; as though an evil tree could by
any possibility bear good fruit.

Another class of persons converse as though the chief sin of
Conversation were the wounding the self-love of those to whom they
speak, by expressing any difference of opinion from them. Thus they
are continually temporizing, and often contradicting themselves, and
exhibiting a cowardly meanness of spirit, which is one of the most
contemptible of all the varied forms of duplicity.

There is a common form of embarrassment resulting in a hesitation of
speech, which often springs from a want of genuine sincerity. The
speaker is fancying what others will think of his remarks, instead of
fixing his mind entirely on the subject of discourse. In this divided
state, his mind loses half its power, and he utters himself in a manner
satisfactory neither to himself nor to his hearers. No doubt hesitation
in speech sometimes arises from want of verbal skill; but probably a
very large proportion of persons suffering from this difficulty would
soon cure themselves if they would steadfastly speak what they believe
to be truth, just as it rises in their minds, and without stopping to
think what will be thought of their opinions or words by those who
listen to them.

Next after truth, reverence is perhaps most important if we would order
our Conversation aright. Many indulge in a frivolous mode of speech in
speaking of the most sacred subjects; which, though it may spring from
nothing worse than thoughtlessness, cannot fail to exert a baneful
influence on the Character, and diminish, perhaps destroy, the little
respect for things holy still cleaving to the heart. This same
irreverence shows itself in another form, in speaking of the calamities
suffered by others, turning that into a jest which is to those under
discussion cause of the most bitter anguish; and though the speakers
probably would not for any consideration have their words come to the
ears of those spoken of, they still do not hesitate to make food for
mirth out of death or sin, poverty or misfortune, in a way little short
of inhuman. The indulgence of this habit falls back upon the soul of
the perpetrator, wounding deeply, if it does not kill, all the finer
sensibilities of the nature; drying up the fountains of sympathy, and
making the heart hard and callous.

Akin to reverence, and probably springing from it, is purity; which
shows itself by a careful avoidance of everything profane, obscene,
coarse, or in any way offending delicacy, either in word, tone, or
suggestion. This purity cannot be too much insisted upon; for its
opposite poisons the fountains of the heart, defiling the temple which
should be a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit. Delicacy and refinement
are too often looked upon merely as the elegant ornaments of polished
life. They should, on the contrary, be esteemed essentials in the
Christian Character; Everything leaning towards profanity, obscenity, or
indelicacy is utterly incompatible with Christian purity of heart. Low
attempts at wit, that hinge on vulgarity, are a common form of this
vice; and those who indulge their propensities in this direction, are
laying the foundation for general grossness of Character, such as they
would now, perhaps, shrink from with horror; but towards which they are
none the less surely tending.

We are told, that "for every idle word we speak we shall give an account
at the day of judgment; for by our words we shall be justified, and by
our words we shall be condemned." This has seemed to many a very hard
saying, and while some persons try to explain it away, others turn
from it as too hard either to explain or to receive. When, however,
we reflect on what words really are, we perceive that this heavy
accountability clings to them of necessity, as effect to cause. Man was
created the image and likeness of God, and when we find points hard of
comprehension in the character or relations of man, we may often gain
much light by taking a corresponding view, so far as our finite powers
permit, of the Divine Being.

The Scriptures are the Divine Word; that is, the verbal exponent of the
Divine Mind; while the world around us is the material exponent of the
same Mind. Speech and life in humanity correspond to these two modes of
expression of the Divinity. When imperfectly understood, they almost of
necessity seem to contradict each other; but it is only then. The unity
of the Word and Works of God is becoming constantly more apparent as man
advances in the knowledge of both. Each helps to explain the other, and
it is only by a knowledge of both that the character and attributes of
God can be justly comprehended. A little consideration will show that
the speech and life of man in like manner combine to exhibit the
character and qualities of the soul within,--that they harmonize with
each other, and that therefore of necessity by our words no less than by
our works we must be justified or condemned before the All-seeing One.

Many suppose, that because we, in our short-sighted views, are so often
misled by the words of our fellow-beings, they are not true pictures
of Character. We should, however, remember that it is not before
short-sighted man that we are to be judged by our words, but before the
omniscient God. To his ear our words have a very different significance
from that which they bear to our fellow-beings. We should recollect,
that the falsehood which may make it impossible for us to judge
righteous judgment of our fellow-beings stands before the Lord only
as a falsehood; and that, in whatever form it comes, from the courteous
white lie--as man dares to call it--of polished society, to the
double-dyed blackness of malignant hypocrisy, God sees only the
varying shades of dissimulation; springing, in whatever form, from a
deep-running undercurrent of selfishness and worldliness. We may be
deceived into believing words are genuine when they are not so; but
every disingenuous word uttered is, before God, the image and likeness
of the duplicity that reigns within. To us they may seem the beautiful
garments that envelop purity and truth; but to him they are the foul and
flimsy veils that strive to conceal the soul's deformity.

Man, in the pride of his artifice, often exults because he has outwitted
his neighbor by his lying words, while all the time he has far more
outwitted himself. He has degraded his own soul,--set upon it a foul
mark that can be washed out only by the bitter tears of penitence, and
yet holds his head aloft in fancied superiority over his fellows, while
before God and the angels he stands like Cain, with the mark of sin
impressed upon his forehead.

That man should be condemned for lying words all will admit, but when
men converse idly, or without any particular thought one way or the
other as to what they are saying, they are apt to suppose that no
especial moral character belongs to the words they utter. Such, however,
is far from the truth. Man is never so sincere as in his idle moments.
His words are then the simple outporings of his affections. It has been
often said, that one can always measure the refinement of any person by
watching his language and deportment in his moments of sportiveness. It
is quite as easy to judge of other traits of Character when the mind is
thrown off its guard at such moments. Idle words, more apparently than
any other, are genuine manifestations of Character. It is in them that
the heart, out of its abundance, speaketh. The Conversation of a true
Christian is characterized in his hours of gayety, no less than at
other times, by truth tempered with love, made clear and steadfast by
simplicity, and clothed with reverence and purity.

The trait of Conversation we would next consider is courtesy,--Christian
courtesy. This is nothing more nor less than carrying out the law of
charity; the doing as we would be done by. It is to recognize the fact
that others have a right to talk as well as ourselves; and also a right
to expect us to listen to what they say as attentively and respectfully
as we would wish them to listen to us. We should not merely hold our
tongues when others speak, but should scrupulously attend to what they
say. A person who affects politeness, although he remains silent while
another speaks, yet does so with an air that plainly shows he is paying
no attention to what is said, and is waiting with impatience for the
moment when he can hear himself talk. This sort of listening is a mere
pretence put on by the conceited and overbearing when they wish to pass
for persons of polite manners; but in reality it is an insult rather
than a courtesy to listen in this way. To listen with true courtesy, one
should feel and show, not only a willingness, but a desire to know what
another has to say, should follow attentively all that he says, and
should then reply with due consideration for what has been said.

It is a remark often made, that after an argument between two or more
persons, each individual is more strongly fixed in his previous opinion
than he was before. This result is often consequent upon the want of
true courtesy. The parties to an argument, absorbed in admiration of
their own opinions, seek not to become wiser through discourse, which
should be the end sought in all Conversation of an argumentative or
discussive character, but seek only to draw attention to their own views
and opinions; until that which should be Conversation degenerates into a
mere war of words, in which each party strives to talk down, rather than
to convince, the other. In such wordy warfare charity has no part; but
pride and combativeness hold entire dominion over the soul. He who comes
off conqueror may exult in his own power; but he has overcome, not
because reason was on his side, but because his combativeness was
stronger than that of his opponent; and he exults in that which is
in reality his shame. The moral and the intellectual natures suffer
together in such contests. The mind fastens itself upon the prejudices
and opinions it has chanced to adopt, loving them merely because they
are its own, and seeks no longer to advance in the acquisition of
truth; while the heart, inflated with egotism, has no abiding-place for
charity. Let charity rule in a discussion, and how different is the
result. Each party then strives to aid the other in discovering the
truth, and at the close of the Conversation each has made some advance
in the knowledge of truth. The ideas of both have become more clear and
rational, and their minds have acted with far more power, because they
have been given exclusively to the object under consideration instead
of being divided between the object and self-love. In the one case, the
parties are like two horses harnessed together contrariwise, and each
striving to go forward by pulling the other back; while in the other,
they travel amicably and fleetly, side by side, toward the fountain of

Next after courtesy comes simplicity, which may be defined as
forgetfulness of self. There is nothing more fatal to agreeable
Conversation than thinking perpetually of one's self. Young persons,
on first going into society, are very apt to fall into the error of
supposing that all eyes and ears are fixed upon them, to observe how
awkwardly or how gracefully they move, and how well or how ill they
converse. This is the result of a mental egotism combined with love
of admiration, and usually produces awkward diffidence or absurd
affectation. Too often the first weakness is overcome, or covered up,
most unwisely, by exchanging bashfulness for impertinent boldness; while
the vanity and self-consciousness of the second very rarely result in
manners or Conversation either sensible or agreeable. To overcome these
defects, wisely, requires a strong effort. They should be radically
subdued by learning to ask one's self, "Am I doing what is right and
proper?" instead of, "What will people think of me?" It is no easy
task to learn to do this habitually, because there is involved in it
a radical change of Character. It is to learn to _be_, instead of to
_seem_. In the first state, we are absorbed by the idea of what we
_seem_ to others; while, in the second state, we are occupied with the
idea of what we really _are_, without regard to the opinion of anybody,
but guided strictly by the abstract law of right. In the first state,
we are embarrassed by the complexity of our wishes and aims. We wish to
please everybody, and we strive to ascertain what will be agreeable
to the various tastes of those with whom we converse. Thus we have no
constant landmark, no unvarying compass to guide us on our way; and we
are drawn hither and thither, as we try now to please one person and
then another. Let our wishes and aims but become simple, and we walk
steadily and surely in the light. In the complexity of our desires we
were slaves; but in their simplicity we become free. Complexity strives
perpetually after reputation, and is always advancing either in the
direction of servility or of arrogance, according as self-esteem or
the love of admiration predominate in the mind of the individual; and
advancing years find it ever deteriorating in all the best elements of
Character. Simplicity, on the contrary, deals with what is, and not with
what seems to be, and is ever seeking growth in goodness and truth;
and therefore each added year finds it growing in all the graces of
improving manhood or womanhood. Complexity grows old in mind no less
than in body. Its moral being is scarred and wrinkled by selfishness and
worldliness, and its intellect dried up and withered by narrow views and
unworthy aims. In its old age there is nothing genial or lovely, and in
its death one could almost believe that soul as well as body perishes.
Simplicity improves in mind as it grows old in body. There are no
wrinkles on the brow of its sunny spirit; there is no withering of its
intellect. Its life, in time, is a perpetual advance in all that is
gracious and intelligent,--a steady ripening for eternity,--and its
death is but a birth into a fuller and more perfect life.

In Conversation, complexity adapts itself artfully to others, in order
to gratify its own selfishness. It humors the selfishness and whims of
those to whom it speaks, in order to gain consideration from them, or to
make use of them in some way for its own advancement.

Simplicity, on the contrary, adapts itself artlessly to others, because
it is full of charity; and therefore desires to make others happy. Its
words are the overflow of genial thought and kindly affection; and all
hearts that hold aught in common with it open and expand before its
influences as plants start at the touch of spring. It is not so much the

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