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The Elements of Character by Mary G. Chandler

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words uttered that produce this effect, as the pleasant and kindly way
in which they are said; for this throws a grace and an attractive charm
about the most commonplace objects of its Conversation.

Intellectual brilliancy in Conversation dazzles and delights the
imagination; but it does not touch the heart. Simplicity, on the
contrary, always impresses itself upon our feelings with a power that is
all the more strong because we cannot analyze it by our intellect. We
talk with a person of simplicity about the common occurrences of the
day, and find ourselves, we know not why, more gentle, refined, and
happy than we were before. We are refreshed as by drinking from a pure
and undefiled fountain of sweet waters; refreshed as mere intellectual
power cannot refresh us; refreshed as no book can refresh us. There is a
harmonious completeness in the whole being of simplicity, a directness
and honesty in all it says and does, "a grace beyond the reach of art,"
in all its manifestations more potent, because more internal in its
effects, than anything can ever be that is born merely of the intellect.
There is no affectation, no straining for effect in simplicity. All is
natural and genuine with it. Its wit is never forced, its wisdom is
never stilted; nor is either ever dragged in for mere display. With
the simple, Conversation is like a brook flowing through a beautiful
country, and reflecting the varied scenes through which it passes in all
their grace and beauty.

Another important trait in Conversation is the correct use of words; and
the effort after this cannot fail to exert a beneficial influence on
the mental powers. In order to speak correctly, one must observe with
accuracy and think with justness; the endeavor to do this increases
our love for the truth and our capacity for perceiving it. Much of the
falsehood in the world is the result of carelessness in observation or
phraseology. We often hear two persons give an account of something they
have seen or heard, and are surprised at the discrepancies between the
two narrations. Probably neither person intended to deceive; but both
saw or heard carelessly, and so are incompetent to describe accurately;
and probably, also, neither has cultivated the habit of speaking
correctly, as that habit is not apt to be found united with carelessness
of observation. Such persons would, perhaps, look upon this sort of
carelessness as a venial offence; but it is not so. Anything that
interferes with, or diminishes the capacity for, perceiving or speaking
the truth is of importance, and should never be passed over lightly. God
is truth no less than love, and every variation from the truth is a sin
against him.

If we find we have related any fact or described any object incorrectly,
it is not enough that we apologize for the error by saying "we though it
was so." Such an error should impress us as a thing to be repented of,
and we should try to ascertain why and how it was that we fell into
it, and it should put us on our guard; that we may be more accurate in

Inaccuracy of speech often arises from a desire to tell a good
story, resulting from the love of admiration or from an ill-trained
imagination. The speaker colors, exaggerates, and distorts everything he
relates, carefully conceals all the facts on one side of a question, and
enlarges upon those of the opposite side with compensating fulness. It
is no uncommon thing to see this carried to such an extent that it is
idle to give credence to anything the person says; the more especially
as such a person very rarely stops with mere distortion of the facts
of a story. As the habit increases, invention supplies new facts and
details to make out all the parts desired, till the listener finds it
impossible to separate the true from the false, and the speaker is as
unable to distinguish his own inventions from the original facts; for
when the habit of speaking the truth is neglected, the capacity for
perceiving it is gradually lost.

In an intellectual point of view, the correct use of words is of the
utmost importance, if one would speak well. To attain this, it is
necessary to have a distinct idea of the meaning of words, and then to
endeavor to use such words as truly express the ideas of the mind. The
use of pet phrases and words is entirely at war with correctness in this
respect. With some persons, everything is pretty, from Niagara Falls to
the last new ribbon; while others find, or rather make, everything
nice, splendid, or glorious. It would be esteemed an insult to the
understanding of any person to suppose that the same idea or emotion
could be aroused in his mind by the sight of the sublimest work of
nature as by a trifling article of dress; yet if he use the same term to
describe it in each instance, he certainly lays himself open to such
an imputation. Want of thorough education is an inadequate excuse for
follies of this sort, because common sense combined with far less
knowledge than may be acquired in a common school is more than
sufficient to enable every one to use his native tongue with sufficient
propriety to save him from being ridiculous.

There is one specious gift which is almost sure to mislead those who are
largely endowed with it, and that is fluency. We listen with pain to
one who speaks hesitatingly and with difficulty, and who is obliged to
search his memory for words that will correctly represent his thoughts;
but if, when the words come, we find they really tells us something
worth waiting for, we feel far less weariness than in following the
unhesitating flow of words that are but empty sound. There is always
peculiar ease and pleasure in the exercise of a natural talent, and
those naturally possessed of fluency must of course find it hard to
restrain the tide of words that is perpetually flowing up to the lips;
but if they desire to converse agreeably, the effort must be made, and
self-denial must be attained. The benefit derived by an over-fluent
talker from self-restraint will be quite commensurate with the effort,
no less than with the added pleasure of the listener, for he will
gain in the power of accurate thought every time that he resists the
inclination to utter an unmeaning sentence.

A clear and distinct utterance is another faculty that should be
cultivated, for the effect of an otherwise interesting conversation
may be seriously impaired, and perhaps destroyed, by a slovenly or
indistinct articulation. Every word and syllable should receive its due
quantity of sound, yet without drawling or stiffness; while the voice
should be so modulated as to be heard without effort, and yet the
opposite fault of speaking too loud is avoided.

Correct pronunciation is a very desirable accomplishment, though
somewhat difficult to attain in its details, authorities are so various;
but probably the most comprehensive rule that can be observed is, as
far as possible to avoid provincialisms. A person's pronounciation can
hardly be elegant if it reveal at once of what State or city he is a
native; while freedom from local peculiarities is of itself a promise
of good pronunciation, as it shows either that the individual has taken
pains to weed out such peculiarities, or that he has been bred among
those who have done so. The pronunciation of the best scholars in every
part of our country is very similar, while the difference becomes more
and more strongly marked between the inhabitants of the various States
of the Union as we descend in the scale of education.

Finally, do not fear to be silent when you have nothing to say. Do not
talk for the mere sake of talking. To sit silently and abstractedly, as
if one were among but not of the company in which one may chance to be,
is discourteous; because it implies a fancied superiority, or an unkind
indifference. Good manners require that in company one should be alive
to what is going on, but this does not imply the necessity of always
talking. There is, almost always, in a mixed company, some Conversation
to which a third person may listen without intrusion; but if this should
not happen to be the case, it is far better to wait until something
occurs that gives one an opportunity of talking to some rational
purpose, than to insist that one's tongue shall incessantly utter
articulate sounds whether the brain give it anything to say or no. This
sort of purposeless talking exerts a positively injurious influence upon
the mind, by leading it into the too common error of mistaking sound for
sense, words for ideas.

Before quitting this important subject, there is a general view to be
taken of it in its universal bearings upon Character, which places it
among the most important branches of a wise education.

The true signification of education, according to one derivation of the
word, is the bringing or leading out of the faculties. The best educated
person is not he who has stored up in his memory the greatest number
of facts, but he whose faculties have become most strengthened and
perfected by what he has learned.

There are several studies pursued in our schools and colleges, such as
Greek, Latin, and Mathematics, rather because they are looked upon as
a kind of gymnastics, whereby the mental faculties in general are
educated, or developed and invigorated, than because they bring a
direct practical benefit to life; for of the numbers who exercise their
faculties upon them, while in the schools, not one in ten makes any
direct use of them afterwards. These studies require expensive books and
teachers, and a greater amount of time than can be given by the majority
of men and women; and moreover they cultivate the intellect without
doing anything for the heart. Without in any degree questioning or
undervaluing the great and varied benefit derived to the mind from these
studies in added accuracy, strength, and richness, there is still room
for wonder that Conversation, both as a science and an art, has no place
in our systems of education; since its practice is a daily necessity to
all, while its power, when wielded with skill, is second to none other
that is brought to bear upon the social circle.

Our young girls are nearly all of them taught music with great
expenditure of money, time, and labor; but whether we look to the
cultivation of actual talent, to the improvement of Character, or to
accomplishment as a means of making ourselves agreeable in society, how
profitably could a part of this time and labor be employed in acquiring
the power and the habit of accurate language, agreeable modulation,
distinct utterance, and courteous attention; and it can hardly be
doubted that a person who possesses the power of conversing well finds
and gives more pleasure in society than a person skilled to an equal
degree in music.

Conversation has, indeed, this advantage over all school studies; in
order to obtain its best requisites no books are needed beyond such as
are accessible to all, while its best teachers are the suggestions of
common sense, and the conscientious love of the true and the good.
Still, there are few persons whose efforts would not be crowned with a
higher success if aided by the criticism and the guidance of a competent
instructor. Those who are competent to self-instruction in this, as
in all other accomplishments, are exceptional examples, and it may be
doubted if even these might not have reached a higher excellence, aided
by the suggestions of another mind. Properly cultivated, Conversation
would have an influence in developing the whole being, of a kind and
degree that could hardly be over-estimated. In its exercise, Thought and
Affection have full play, while all the stores of Memory and the wealth
of Imagination find ample field for display.

Conversation is so comprehensive in its manifestations and necessities,
that it can reach its perfection only through the development of the
whole being, moral as well as intellectual; and it will constantly
become more finished in proportion as this development becomes more
complete. Its universality, its hourly necessity, should impress us
with its value; for the mercy of the Lord, as it gives light and air,
sunshine and shower, seedtime and harvest, in short, all the essentials
of physical development to the whole human race, so it supplies to all
the power and the essential means for disciplining and cultivating the
whole Character.


"There is something higher in Politeness than Christian moralists have
recognized. In its best forms, as a simple, out-going, all-pervading
spirit, none but the truly religious man can show it; for it is the
sacrifice of self in the little habitual matters of life,--always the
best test of our principles,--together with a respect, unaffected, for
man, as our brother under the same grand destiny."--C. L. BRACK.

"Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase,
barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible
operation, like that of the air we breathe in."--BURKE.

* * * * *

Manners are the most external manifestation by which men display their
individual peculiarities of mind and heart; and unless used artificially
to conceal the true Character, they form a transparent medium through
which it is exhibited.

It has been sarcastically asserted, that few persons exist who can
afford to be natural; and it is probable that if the human race were to
allow their manners to be perfectly natural; that is, were they to allow
all the passions of the soul to display themselves without restraint in
their manners, social intercourse would become insupportable. Among
the merely worldly, the difference between an ill-bred and a well-bred
person is that the former displays his discomfort, ill-humor, or
selfishness in his Manners, while the latter conceals them all under a
veil of suavity and kindness. Selfishness prompts the one to be rude,
and the other to be hypocritical, and each is alike unworthy of

Manners are the garments of the spirit; the external clothing of the
being, in which Character ultimates itself. If the Character be simple
and sincere, the Manners will be at one with it; will be the natural
outbirth of its traits and peculiarities. If it be complex and
self-seeking, the Manners will be artificial, affected, or insincere.
Some persons make up, put on, take off, alter, or patch their Manners to
suit times and seasons, with as much facility, and as little apparent
consciousness of duplicity, as if they were treating their clothes in
like fashion. If an individual of this class is going to meet company
with whom he wishes to ingratiate himself, he puts on his most polished
Manners, as a matter of course, just as he puts on his best clothes;
and when he goes home, he puts them off again for the next important
occasion. For home use, or for associating with those about whose
opinion he is indifferent, no matter how rude the Manners, or how
uncared for the costume. Perhaps the rudeness may chance to come out in
some overt act that will not bear passing over in silence, and then the
perpetrator utters an "excuse me," that reminds one of a bright new
patch set upon an old faded garment. Not that such a patch is unworthy
of respect when worn by honest poverty, and set on with a neatness that
makes it almost ornamental. This is like the "excuse me" of a truly,
well-bred man, apologizing for an offence he regrets; while the "excuse
me" of the habitually rude man is like the botched patch of the sloven
or the beggar, who wears it because the laws of the land forbid

The fine lady of this class may be polished to the last degree, when
arrayed in silks and laces she glides over the rich carpets of the
drawing-room; and yet, with her servants at home, she is possibly less
the lady than they; or worse still, this fine lady, married, perhaps, to
a fine gentleman of a character similar to her own, in the privacy of
domestic life carries on a civil war with him, in which all restraint of
courtesy is set aside.

There is so much undeniable hypocrisy in the high-bred courtesy of
polished society, that among many religious persons there has come to
be an indifference, nay, almost an opposition, to Manners that savor of
elegance or courtliness. If, however, Christian charity reign within,
rudeness or indifference cannot reign without. One may as well look for
a healthy physical frame under a skin revolting from disease, as for a
healthy moral frame under Manners rude and discourteous; for Manners
indicate the moral temperament quite as accurately as the physical
temperament is revealed by the complexion. Selfishness and arrogance
of disposition express themselves in indifferent, rude, or overbearing
Manners; while vanity and insincerity are outwardly fawning and
sycophantic. If Christian charity reign in the heart, it can fitly
express itself only in Manners of refinement and courtesy; and the
Christian should not be unwilling to wear such Manners in all sincerity,
because the worlding assumes them to serve his purposes of selfishness.
Worldly wisdom ever pays Virtue the compliment of imitation; but that is
no good reason why Virtue should hesitate to appear like herself. The
best Manners possible are the simple bringing down of the perfect law of
charity into the most external ultimates of social life. Until Character
tends at all times, and in all places, and towards all persons, to
ultimate itself in Manners of thorough courtesy, it is not building
itself upon a sure foundation. The ultimates of all things serve as
their basis and continent; therefore must true charity of heart be built
upon and contained within true charity of Manner.

When we are in doubt regarding the value of any particular trait of
Character, we can generally find the solution of our difficulty by
working out an answer to the question, How does it affect our usefulness
in society? There are three modes in which we express ourselves towards
those with whom we come in contact in the family and social relations of
life,--Action, Conversation, and Manners. The importance of ordering
the first two of these expressions aright can hardly be doubted by any
thinking being; but that conscience has anything to do with Manners
would probably be questioned by many. Let us ascertain the moral bearing
of Manners by the test just indicated.

What effect have our Manners upon our usefulness as social beings?
Conversation is in general the expression of our thoughts; much more
seldom do we express our affections in words. Manners, on the contrary,
are the direct expression of our affections. They are to Action what
tone is to Conversation. Many persons may be found who make use of
falsehood in their Conversation, but very few who can lie in the tones
of their voice. So many persons can act hypocritically, but there are
comparatively few whose Manners are habitually deceitful. Our words and
actions are more easily under our control than our tones and manners;
because the former are more the result of Thought, while the latter
are almost entirely the result of Affection. Although few persons are
distinctly aware of this difference, every one is powerfully affected by
it. There is no physical quality more powerful to attract or to repel
than the tones of the voice; and this power is all the stronger because
both parties are usually unconscious of it; and so mutually act and are
acted upon, simply and naturally, without effort or resistance. Thus
conversation often owes its effect less to the words used than to the
tones in which they are uttered. An unpalatable truth may come without
exciting any feeling of irritation or opposition from one who speaks
with a tone of voice expressive of the benevolent affections, and
produce much good; while the very same words, uttered in a tone of
asperity or bitterness, may exasperate the hearer, and be productive
only of harm. It has already been said, that Manners bear the same
relation to life that tone bears to conversation; and a good life loses
great portion of the power it might exert over those who come within the
influence of its sphere if it ultimate itself in ungracious or repulsive
Manners. In the old English writers we often find persons characterized
as Christian gentlemen or Christian ladies; and courtesy seems formerly
to have been clearly understood to be a Christian virtue. Our conflict
with, and our escape from, the aristocracy and privileges of rank of
older nations has caused a reaction, not only against them, but also
against the external politeness which was connected with them, and
which was, and is too often, though certainly not always, false and
hypocritical; and thus the growth of republican principles has had the
effect to diminish the respect once entertained for good Manners, and
the mass of our countrymen seem to look upon politeness as an antiquated
remnant of a past age, which the present has outgrown as entirely as
wigs and hoop-petticoats. It is, however, a curious feature in the
change, that at no previous time have the titles of gentleman and lady
been so universally and pertinaciously assumed as at the present. The
rudest even are resentful at being called simply men or women, while
they unconsciously show the weakness of their claim to a higher title by
denying it to those who they assume are no better than themselves. The
often-repeated anecdote of the Yankee stage-driver who asked of the Duke
of Saxe Weimer, "Are you the man that wants an extra coach?" and on
being answered in the affirmative, said, "Then I am the gentleman to
drive you," is an illustration of what is going on continually around
us. A large proportion of the members of one half of society stands in
perpetual fear that those in the other half do not esteem them gentlemen
and ladies; and yet it seldom seems to occur to them to substantiate
their claim to the coveted title by that cultivation of good Manners,
which can alone make it theirs of right.

The artificial Manners and laws of social life are so overloaded with
conventionalisms, and a knowledge of these is so often made a test of
good-breeding, that much confusion of opinion exists regarding the
requisites that constitute the true gentleman and lady. These titles
belong to something real, something not dependent on the knowledge and
practice of conventionalisms that change with every changing season,
but to substantial qualities of Character which are the same yesterday,
to-day, and to-morrow.

The foundation of good Manners is the sincere acknowledgment that we are
all children of one great family, all one band of brothers, each having
a right to receive from the rest all the consideration and forbearance
that can be given him without diminishing the portion that belongs to
the others. The rich complain of the envy and jealousy of the poor, and
the poor murmur because of the arrogance and haughtiness of the rich;
yet if those among the two classes who are guilty of these vices were to
change positions, they would change vices too; for arrogance _in_ the
possessor and envy _towards_ the possessor of wealth are but differing
phases of a love for wealth based on the love for that consideration
in society which it gives, and not for the power it yields of added

The ill-bred fashionist sails haughtily into the shop where she obtains
materials for her adornment, and with a supercilious air purchases her
ribbons and laces of a sulky girl, who revenges herself for not being
able to wear the costly gauds by treating as rudely as she dares the
customer who can; and as they look upon each other, the one with scorn,
and the other with envious hate, we see in both only the very same
littleness of feminine vanity, which in its narrow-minded silliness
believes that the first requisite of a lady is costly garments.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that in our higher society there
are no good Manners, none that are really good in essence and purpose,
as well as in form; and it would be an equal mistake to suppose, that in
all society of lower caste there is either a want of true refinement or
an envy and distrust of all that is above it; but it is also true that
there is a magic circle known as "genteel," and a perpetual antagonism
prevails here between those who are within and those who desire
admittance, but are refused; as there are literary circles where
contentions and envyings arise between pedantic scholarship and assuming

The ill-breeding so often complained of in the intercourse between the
different classes of society, and by none more indignantly than those
who exercise it most, results from the factitious value set upon the
externals of life by those who estimate them in proportion as they give
distinction among men, and not as they increase the means of happiness
and usefulness in this world, and so prepare us for the usefulness and
happiness of the world to come.

Those among the poor, the ignorant, and the vulgar, whose hearts are
burning with envy and hatred; and those among the rich, the learned, and
the fashionable, who are rendered arrogant and supercilious by their
possessions, are alike unconscious of the true worth of the blessings
that excite the covetousness of the one class and the exultation of the
other. Each party values man for his possessions, and not for the use
that he makes of them; for what he has, and not for what he is. Where
this is the case, mutual aversion ultimating itself on both sides in
acts of discourtesy, will ever keep alive a spirit of antagonism among
the various classes of society; and this will disappear in proportion as
society becomes sufficiently Christianized to perceive and acknowledge
that every human being is worthy of respect so far as he fulfils the
duties of his station; and that we cannot be discourteous even towards
the evil and the unfaithful, without indulging feelings of pride and
disdain that are incompatible with Christian meekness.

In the social intercourse of equals, and in domestic life, ill-temper,
selfishness, and indifference, which is a negative form of selfishness,
are the principal sources of ill-breeding. Where the external forms of
courtesy are not observed in the family circle, we are almost sure to
find perpetually recurring contention and bickering. Rudeness is a
constant source of irritation; because, however little the members of a
family regard politeness, each will have his own way of being rude,
and each will probably be disgusted or angry at some portion of the
ill-breeding of all the rest. Rudeness is always angular, and its
sharp corners produce discomfort whenever they come in contact with a
neighbor. Politeness presents only polished surfaces, and not only never
intrudes itself upon a neighbor, but is rarely obtruded upon; for there
is no way so effectual of disarming rudeness as by meeting it with
thorough politeness; for the rude man can fight only with his own

Indifference of Manner exhibits a disregard for the comfort and pleasure
of those around us, which, though not so obtrusive as rudeness, shows an
egotism of disposition incompatible with brotherly love. If we love our
neighbor as ourself, we cannot habitually forget his existence so far
as to annoy him by neglecting to perform, the common courtesies of life
towards him, or interfere with what he is doing by not perceiving that
we are in his way.

If we would be thoroughly well-bred, we must be so constantly. It is not
very difficult to distinguish in society between those whose manners are
assumed for the occasion and those who wear them habitually. The former
are apt to forget themselves occasionally, or they overact their part,
or if they succeed in sustaining a perfect elegance of deportment that
is really pleasing as an effort of art, they always want the grace of
naturalness and simplicity which belongs to the Manners of those who
have made courtesy and refinement their own by loving them. It is only
when we act as we love to act, that our Manners are truly our own. If we
cultivate the external forms of politeness from an indirect motive, that
is, from the love of approbation, or from pride of character, it is the
reward we love, and not the virtue; and if we gain this reward, it is
only external and perishable; and is of no benefit to our character, but
the reverse, for it ministers only to our pride. If, on the contrary,
we cultivate politeness with simplicity, because we believe it to be a
virtue, and love it for its own sake, we are sure of the reward of an
added grace of character, which can never be taken from us, because it
is a part of ourselves; and though we may enjoy the external rewards if
they come, we shall not be disturbed if they do not; because these were
not the motives that induced our efforts.

Politeness, where it is loved and cultivated with simplicity for its own
sake, gives a repose and ease of action to the moral being which may be
compared to the comfort and satisfaction resulting to the physical
frame from habits of personal cleanliness. The moral tone is elevated
and refined by the one, as the animal functions are purified and renewed
by the other.

As in civil life liberty to the whole results from the subjection of
the evil passions of all to legal enactments, so in social life every
individual is free and at ease in proportion as all the rest are subject
to the laws of courtesy. Ease and freedom are the result of order,
and it is as incorrect to call rude Manners free and easy, as to call
licentiousness liberty. No man is truly free who allows his sphere of
life to impinge upon that of his neighbor. Fluids are said to move
easily because each particle is without angular projections that prevent
it from gliding smoothly with or by its companions; and in like manner
the ease of society depends on the polish of each individual. If the
units of society seek their own selfish indulgence, without regard to
the rights of the neighbor, the whole must form a mass of grating atoms
in which no one can be free, or at ease.

Indifference, ill-temper, selfishness, envy and arrogance, all positive
vices, are the characteristics that ultimate themselves in ill-manners.
Rudeness is, as it were, the offensive odor exhaled from the corrupt
fruit of an evil tree; and he who would be a branch of the true vine
must remember, whenever he is tempted to do a rude thing, that he will
never yield to such temptation unless there is hidden somewhere upon his
branch fruit that should be cut off and cast into the fire.

The Christian gentleman and lady are such because they love their
neighbor as themselves; and to be a thorough Christian without being
a gentleman or lady is impossible. Wherever we find the rich without
arrogance, and the poor without envy, the various members of society
sustaining their mutual relations without suspicion or pretension, the
family circle free from rivalry, fault-finding, or discord, we shall
find nothing ungentle, for there the spirit of Christianity reigns. He
who is pure in heart can never be vulgar in speech, and he who is meek
and loving in spirit can never be rude in manner.


Learn to admire rightly; the great pleasure of life is that. Note what
the great men admired; they admired great things: narrow spirits admire
basely, and worship meanly."--THACKERAY.

"According to the temper and spirit by which it is influenced, prayer
opens or shuts the kingdom of life and peace on the soul of the
supplicant, elevating him either to a closer conjunction with the Lord
and his angelic kingdom, or plunging him into a more deplorable depth
of separation, by immersing him into association with the lost
spirits of darkness."--CLOWES.

* * * * *

Man was not born to live alone, and it is only in and through the
relations of the family and the social circle that the better parts of
his nature can be developed. Solitude is good occasionally, and they who
fly from it entirely can hardly attain to any high degree of spiritual
growth; but still in all useful solitude there must be a recognition of
some being beside self. He who turns to solitude only to brood over
thoughts of self, soon becomes a morbid egoist, and it is only when we
study in solitude in order to make our social life more wise and true
that our solitary hours are blessed.

Man really alone is something we can hardly imagine. He becomes
cognizable almost entirely through his relations with God and with his
fellow-men. Heathen philosophy sought to make man wise by withdrawing
him from the passions and affections that move him when associated with
his fellow-men, in order that he might devote himself to the study of
abstract truth. Christian philosophy teaches that truth owes its
sanctity to the Divine Love, which alone gives it Life; and that by
leading a life of love we acquire the power of understanding the truth.
Philosophy is a dead abstraction until piety and charity fill it with
the breath of life.

The offices of piety belong in great part to solitude, and the offices
of charity to society; but the principle of Companionship is involved in
both; for piety associates us with God as charity associates us with

All Companionship involves the idea of both giving and receiving. In the
offices of piety, in proportion as we give a worship that is earnest and
heartfelt, is the warmth and clearness of the influx of heavenly love
and wisdom that we receive. In the offices of charity, our love is
warmed and our wisdom enlightened in proportion as we disinterestedly
seek the true happiness of those whose lives come within the sphere of
our influence, guided, not by blind instinct, but by an enlightened
Christianity. Thus the quality and quantity of what we receive from
Companionship depends on the quality and quantity of what we give.

There is no surer test of Character than the Companionship we habitually
seek; for we always prefer the society of those who administer to our
dominant love. Some seek the society of their superiors, others of their
equals, and others, again, of their inferiors; and the members of each
class are actuated in their choice by very various motives. Thus, among
the first class are found the ambitious, who seek their superiors
because they fancy themselves elevated by the reflection of the
attributes they admire; the proud, who fancy themselves degraded by
association with their inferiors; and the humble, who seek to be
advanced in goodness, in knowledge, or in refinement through intercourse
with those who excel. On the other hand are those who seek their
inferiors from the vanity that demands admiration as its daily food, or
the pride that feels itself oppressed in the presence of a superior, or
the philanthropy that loves to give of its stores to those less endowed
than itself. The middle class may be actuated in their choice by the
love of sympathy in their pursuits, or by a kind of indolence that is
disturbed by whatever differs much from itself. There is less purpose
and vitality in this class than in either of the others; but merely a
desire to float with the surrounding current, whithersoever it may tend.

The constituents of society are so varied in quality, that it would be
very difficult for any one to associate exclusively with a particular
class; and it may be doubted if we have a right to seek to do so. The
variety in social life is adapted to develop the various qualities of
the human soul far more perfectly than they could be if the different
classes of humanity were entirely separated in their walks. All should
be willing to give as well as to receive, and to this end all should be
willing to associate in a spirit of brotherly love with their superiors
or their inferiors without any feeling either of servility or of
elation. We may seek the society of our superiors in order to enrich
ourselves, and that of our inferiors in order to give freely even as we
have received; while with our equals we alternately give and receive,
for no two persons are so similarly endowed but that each may gain by
associating with the other. In truth, whichever way the balance may
incline, none ever give without receiving, and none can receive without

No Companionship is wise that does not involve the principle of growth.
If the influence of our associates does not make us go forward, it will
surely cause us to go backward. If we are not elevated by it, we shall
certainly be degraded. Two persons cannot associate and either party
remain just as he was before; and if we would find in society an element
of growth, we must seek for all that is elevating in whatever circles we
move; for it is not confined to any particular circle or class, but
waits everywhere for the true seeker.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, said the Lord,
teaching as never man taught; and it is in proportion as we walk meekly
with our fellow-men that our capacities become capable of receiving, to
their fullest extent, the influx of goodness and truth that should be
the end of social intercourse. Nothing obstructs our receptivity so much
as that egoism of thought and affection which keeps self perpetually
before the mind's eye, and to this egoism meekness is the direct
opposite. Meekness implies forgetfulness of self. There is nothing
servile about it, but it pursues its way in pure simplicity, forgetting
self in its steadfast devotion to what it seeks. Egoism pursues its aims
from love of self and of the world, and confides in its own strength for
success. Meekness pursues its aims from the love of excellence, and
confiding in the strength of the Lord. The first love is dim of sight,
and often satisfies itself with the shadow of what it seeks, while its
strength is too feeble to grasp the higher forms of excellence. The
second love is full of light, because its eye is single; it can be
satisfied only with substance, and its endeavors know no limit, because
its strength comes from Him who never fails nor wearies.

Meekness is always ready to receive of the excellence it seeks, through
whatever medium it can be obtained; while egoism is perpetually hindered
in its advancement by its unwillingness to owe it to any source out of

Similar results follow in giving as in receiving. Meekness gives in
simplicity from love to the neighbor, and feels as great pleasure in
imparting from its stores as in receiving additions to them, because the
pleasure it imparts is reflected back upon itself, making all its good
offices twice blessed. Egoism is twice cursed, as all that it receives
and all that it gives perpetually adds to its love of self; for it
values what it possesses because it is its own, and imparts to others
because it enjoys a feeling of superiority over the recipient of its
possessions. Meekness builds itself up; egoism puffs itself up. To
meekness Companionship is a perpetual source of healthful growth; while
to egoism it furnishes food only to supply the demands of a morbid
enlargement, destructive to all manly and womanly symmetry.

Society at large, according as we walk in it in a spirit of meekness or
a spirit of egoism, thus serves to develop and expand our powers, or to
narrow and degrade them more and more continually. To the casual
observer, the difference in the advancement of the two classes may not
in early life be apparent. The forth-putting pretension of egoism may
indeed cause it to seem the more rapidly advancing character of the two;
but the progress of years will widen the separation between their paths,
till it shall be seen as a great gulf, of which the opposite sides have
naught in common. Advancing age will show the egoist narrow-minded and
overbearing, peevish and fault-finding; while he who pursues his even
course, walking in Christian meekness with his fellow-men, will in old
age exhibit ever-enlarging charity and ever-expanding wisdom, and his
gray hairs will seem like a crown of glory.

It may seem almost needless to speak of the danger to Character that is
involved in seeking the Companionship of the worthless or the evil-
disposed. "Can one handle pitch and not be defiled?" Yet the usages of
society are so disordered, that the possession of wealth, family
distinction, or personal elegance, though accompanied by ignorance,
folly, or even dissoluteness, is sometimes a surer passport into what is
termed good society than the best culture of mind and heart, where
external advantages have been denied.

When we value mankind according to their external advantages, our moral
standard is as false as the drawing upon a Chinese plate. We have no
true moral perspective. Our ideas of right and wrong are confused and
imperfect, and in danger of becoming corrupt. We laugh at the stupidity
of the poor Chinaman in his attempts after beauty in art, while in
morals we are quite as stupid as he. Believing ourselves wise, we are
fools. It is very hard to escape being unduly influenced by the opinions
of society; but the more earnestly we seek true excellence for
ourselves, the more easily we learn to value true excellence in others,
and, to overlook the opinions of the world. The more independent we
become of opinion, the better will be the influence we exert upon
society, as well as that which we receive from it in return.

If the influence of our Companionship with those whom we meet in general
society and in the daily avocations of life be important, far more so is
that which comes to us through the friends whom we select from the world
at large as best adapted to minister to our happiness; and in proportion
as they are near and dear to us will their influence be strong and deep.

The choice of friends is influenced by an equal variety of motives, and
of a similar nature as those that lead to the selection of the social
circle. There is often no better foundation than selfishness for what
passes current in the world for ardent friendship. The selfish and
worldly love from selfish and worldly motives, and doubtless they
receive their reward; but if we would derive the advantages to Character
that result from a wise Companionship, we must select our friends
without undue regard to the opinions of the world, and impelled by a
desire for moral or intellectual advancement. Falsehood and fickleness
in friendship result from its being built upon merely selfish or
circumstantial foundations. When built upon mutual respect and
affection, it contains no element of decay or change; and they who trust
to any other foundation have no right to complain if their confidence is
abused and disappointed.

Persons sometimes suppose themselves the fast friends of others, when
their affection is merely the result of benefits received directly or
indirectly; and if these benefits are withheld, their supposed
friendship is dissipated at once, or perhaps changed to enmity. Such a
friendship is merely circumstantial, and has no just claim to the name.
Mere juxtaposition, the habit of seeing each other every day, is often
sufficient to produce what the parties concerned esteem friendship, and
to occasion the freest interchange of confidence. The slightest change
of circumstance, a few miles of separation, an inadvertent offence, a
trival difference of opinion, a clashing of interests, are, any one of
them, sufficient to bring such an intimacy to an end, and to cast
reproach upon the sacred name of friendship, when friendship had never
existed between the parties for a single moment.

Genuine friendship can exist only between persons of some elevation of
moral character, and its strength and devotion will be commensurate with
the degree of this moral elevation. Truthfulness, frankness,
disinterestedness, and faithfulness are qualities absolutely essential
to friendship, and these must be crowned by a sympathy that enters into
all the joys, the sorrows, and the interests of the friend, that
delights in all his upward progress, and, when he stumbles or falls, as
all at times must, stretches out the helping hand, not condescendingly
nor scornfully, but in the simplicity of true charity, that forgives
even as it would be forgiven, and is tender and patient even where it
condemns. In such a friendship there is no room for rivalry, weariness,
distrust, or anything subversive of confidence. With the selfish and the
worldly, such a connection cannot exist, because with them rivalries and
clashing interests must arise; for it is only among the seekers after
excellence that there is room for the gratification of the desires of
all. Neither can it exist between the false, for falsehood shuts the
door upon confidence; nor with the morally weak, the foolish, or the
idle, for they weary of each other even as they weary of themselves.

Of all earthly Companionship, there is none so deeply fraught with weal
or woe, with blessing or with cursing, as the Companionship of married
life. After this relationship is formed, although the threads still
remain the same, the whole warp and woof of the being are dyed with a
new color, woven according to a new pattern. Character is never the same
after marriage as before. There is a new impetus given by it to the
powers of thought and affection, inducing them to a different activity,
and deciding what tendencies are henceforth to take the lead in the
action of the mind; whether the soul is to spread its wings for a higher
flight than it has hitherto ventured, or to sit with closed pinions,
content to be of the earth, earthy. All are interested, even strangers,
In hearing of the establishment of a newly married pair in what relates
to the equipage of external life. Far more interesting would it be if we
could trace the mental establishing that is going on, as old traits of
character are confirmed or cast aside, and new ones developed or

This union, so sacred that it even supersedes that which exists between
parent and child, should be entered upon only from the highest and
purest motives; and then, let worldly prosperity come or go as it may,
this twain whom God has joined, not by a mere formal ritual of the
Church, but by a true spiritual union that man cannot put asunder, are a
heaven unto themselves, and peace will ever dwell within their

In proportion as a true marriage of the affections between the pure in
heart is productive of the highest happiness that can exist on earth, so
every remove from it diminishes the degree of this happiness until it
passes into the opposite, and becomes, in its most worldly and selfish
form, a fountain of misery, of a quality absolutely infernal.

Amid the disorder and imperfection reigning in the world, it is not to
be supposed that a large proportion of marriages should be truly
heavenly. In order to arrive at this, both parties must be of a higher
moral standing than is often reached at an age when marriage is usually
entered upon; but unless the character of each is inclined heavenward
there is no rational ground for anticipating happiness, except of the
lowest kind.

Many persons of a naturally amiable disposition enjoy what may seem a
high degree of happiness, through their sympathy with each other in
worldliness and ambition; but such happiness is not of a kind that can
endure the clouds and tempests of life. It is nourished only by the good
things of this world, and, if it cannot obtain them, is converted into
the greater wretchedness because the being who is dearest in life shares
this wretchedness. When, on the contrary, things heavenly are those most
highly prized and earnestly sought, each party helps to sustain the
other in all earthly privations and disappointments; for each is looking
beyond and above the trials of earth, and each is in possession of a
hope, nay, a fruition, that cannot be taken away, and which is dearer
than all that is lost. With them, to suffer together is to rob suffering
of half its weight, and almost all its bitterness. Whatever earthly
deprivation may befall them, the kingdom of heaven is ever within their

The Companionship of our fellow-beings is not confined to the living men
and women around us, but comes to us, through books, from all nations
and ages. Wise teachers stand ever ready to instruct us, gentle
moralists to console and strengthen us, poets to delight us. Scarce a
country village is so poor that there may not be found beneath its roofs
the printed words of more great men than ever lived at any one period of
the earth's history.

We are too apt to use books, as well as society, merely for our
amusement; to read the books that chance to fall into our hands, or to
associate with the persons we happen to meet with, and not stop to ask
ourselves if nothing better is within our reach. It may not be in our
power to associate with great living minds, but the mental wealth of the
past is within the reach of all. We boast much that we are a reading
people, but it may be well to inquire how intelligently we read. The
catalogues of books borrowed from our public libraries show, that, where
the readers of works of amusement are counted by hundreds, the readers
of instructive books are numbered by units. In conversation, it is not
uncommon to hear persons expressing indifference or dislike to whole
classes of books,--to hear Travels denounced as stupid, Biography as
tame, and History as heavy and dull. It does not seem to occur to the
mass of minds that any purpose beyond the amusement of the moment is to
be thought of in reading, or that any plan should be laid, or any
principles adopted, in the choice of books to be read.

It is undoubtedly a great good that nearly all our people are taught to
read, but it is a small fraction of the community that reads to much
good purpose. Children, so soon as they have acquired the use of the
alphabet, are inundated with little juvenile stories, some of them good,
but most of them silly, and many vulgar. As they grow older, successions
of similar works of fiction await them, until they arrive at
adolescence, when they are fully prepared for all the wealth of folly,
vulgarity, falsehood, and wickedness that is bound up within the yellow
covers of most of the cheap novels that infest every highway of the

As you are jostled through the streets of our populous cities, or take
your seat in a crowded railway-car, you are, perhaps, impressed with the
general air of rudeness that pervades the scene,--a rudeness of a kind
so new to the world, that, no old word sufficing to describe it, a new
name has been coined, and the swaggering, careless, sensual looking
beings, reeking with the fumes of tobacco, that make up the masses of
our moving population, are adequately described only by the word
_rowdy_. As yet, no title has been found for the female of this class,
--bold, dashing, loud-talking and loud-laughing, ignorant, vain, and so
coarse that she supposes fine clothes and assuming manners are all that
is necessary to elevate her to the rank of a lady. Perhaps you wonder
how so numerous a race of these beings has come to exist; but that boy
at your elbow, bending under the weight of his literary burden, is a
colporteur for converting the men and women of this "enlightened nation"
to rowdyism. Those books portray just such men and women as you see
before you, and that is why they are welcomed so warmly. A few cents
will buy from that boy enough folly and impurity to gorge a human mind
for a week, and possibly few among this throng often taste more
wholesome intellectual food.

It is probable that some of these persons are the children of
intelligent and well-bred parents; but their fathers were engrossed in
business, and their mothers in family cares, and thought they had no
time to form the moral and intellectual tastes of the immortal minds
committed to their charge. They fancied that if they sent their children
to good schools, and provided liberally for all their external wants,
they had done enough. Ignorant nursery maids, perhaps, taught them
morals and manners, while the father toiled to accumulate the means for
supplying their external wants, and the mother hemmed ruffles and
scolloped trimming to make people say, "How _sweetly_ those children are
dressed!" as the maid paraded them through the streets, teaching them
their first lessons in vulgar vanity.

A child may be educated at the best schools without acquiring any taste
for good literature. The way a parent treats a child in relation to its
books has far more influence in this respect than a teacher can possibly
possess. A mother, even if she is not an educated woman, can learn to
read understandingly, and can teach her child to read in the same way.
She can talk to it about its books, and awaken a desire in its mind to
understand what it reads. Children are always curious in regard to the
phenomena of nature, and whether this curiosity lives or dies depends
very much on the answers it receives to its first questions. If the
mother cannot answer them herself, she can help the child to find an
answer somewhere else, and she should beware how she deceives herself
with the idea that she has not time to attend to the moral and
intellectual wants of her child. She has no right to so immerse all her
own mind in the cares of life that she cannot, while attending to them,
talk rationally with her children. The mothers who best fulfil their
higher duties towards their children are quite as often found among
those who are compelled to almost constant industry of the hands, as
among those of abundant leisure. There is nothing in the handiwork of
the housekeeper or the seamstress that need absorb all the mental
attention; and hers must be an ill-regulated mind that cannot ply the
needle, or perform the more active duties of the household, and yet
listen to the child as it reads its little books, and converse with it
about the moral lessons or the intellectual instruction they contain.
The mother has it in her power to influence the mode in which the child
makes companions of its books more than any other person; and the
character of its Companionship with them through life will generally
depend in a great degree on the tastes and habits acquired in childhood.

Many parents who guard their children with jealous care from the
contamination of rude and vicious society among other children, allow
them to associate with ideal companions of a very degraded kind. The
parent should check the propensity, not only to read bad books, but also
to read idle or foolish books, by exciting the action of the mind
towards something better. Merely to deny improper books is not enough.
Something must be given in place of them, or the craving will continue,
and the child will be very apt to gratify its appetite in secret.

Children are easily led to observe nature, animate or inanimate, with
interest, and there are many simple books illustrating the departments
of natural science which mothers could make interesting to their
children at the same time that they instructed themselves. Juvenile
works on history abound, and through them the child may be led, as
intelligence expands, to seek more extended and thorough treatises; and
the sympathy of the mother should be ready to help him on his way. It is
mere self-deception in those mothers who deny their mental capacity, or
their command of time, to aid their children in their mental progress.
It is a _moral_ want of their own, far more than everything else, that
causes them to shrink from this most important responsibility.

Those who have passed the period of childhood, who have taken upon
themselves the responsibility of all that concerns their own minds, and
who have any desire after upward progress, should remember that the
books they love best are those which reflect their own characteristics.
Every one looks up to his favorite books, and the tone of his mind is
influenced by them in consequence. In our Companionship with our fellow-
beings we may be governed to a great extent by our desire to stand well
with the world, and therefore seek the society of those whom the world
most admires rather than those we most enjoy. In the choice of our books
there is much less influence of this kind exerted upon us. In the
retirement of our homes we may daily consort with the low or the wicked,
as they are delineated in books, and our standing with the world be in
no way affected, while the poison we imbibe will work all the more
surely that it works secretly. They whose ideas of right and wrong are
dependent on the judgment of the world may need even this poor guide,
and suffer from the want of it; for in doing what the world does not
know, and therefore cannot condemn, they may encounter evil and danger
from which even the love of the world would protect them, if the same
things were to be exposed to the public eye. We have no more moral right
to read bad books than to associate with bad men, and it would be well
for us in selecting our books to be governed by much the same principles
as in the selection of our associates; to feel that they are, in fact,
companions and friends whose opinions cannot fail to exert a powerful
influence upon us, and that we cannot associate with them
indiscriminately without great danger to our characters.

The Book of books, the Word of God, should occupy the first place in our
estimation; and the test question in regard to the value of all other
books is, whether they draw us towards, or away from, the Bible. So far
as they are written with a genuine love for goodness and truth, books in
every department of science and literature have a tendency, more or less
strong, to increase our reverence and love for the Source of all
goodness and truth; and no book can be subversive of our faith in the
Scriptures that has not its foundation laid in falsehood.

Nature may tell us of a Creator, but the Bible alone reveals a Father.
Nature describes him as far from us, removed beyond all sympathy, before
whose power we tremble, and whose mercy we might strive to propitiate by
sacrifices or entreaties; but from the Bible we learn that he is near at
hand, watching every pulsation of the heart, listening to every
aspiration that we breathe; that we walk with him so long as we obey his
commandments, and that though we may turn from him, he never turns from
us; that when we approach him in prayer, it should not be with fear,
but with love; and loving him with the knowledge that he first loved us,
we find that prayer, in its true form, is a Companionship, and that the
Father rejoices over his child in proportion as the child rejoices in
approaching the throne of mercy.

Pure and holy influences come to us immediately through our Companionship
with those among our fellow-beings who have received of the overflowings
of the Divine Fountain of goodness and truth. But when we reverently
approach that Fountain, we receive immediately, with a power and fulness
that can descend upon us through no human being.

What we receive through other mediums reaches only the lower and more
external planes of our being; but prayer brings us, if we pray aright,
before the throne of the Most High, and opens those inmost chambers of
the soul that remain for ever closed and empty unless they are opened
and filled by the immediate presence of the Lord. These constitute that
Holy of Holies which is the inmost of every human soul. The world at
large may enter its outer courts, chosen friends may minister before the
altar of its sanctuary, but within all this there is a holier place,
which none but the Lord can enter; for it is the seat of the vital
principle of the soul, which can be touched and quickened by no hand but

The quality of the life of the whole being depends upon the degree in
which we suffer the Lord to dwell within our souls. His Companionship
fills and vivifies everything that is below it. The more entirely we
walk with the Lord, the more constant we shall be in the performance of
all our duties. The more entirely we open our hearts to his influence,
the more benefit we shall receive from all other influences. The more
reverently we listen to the truth that comes directly from him, the more
capable we shall be of finding out and appreciating the truth that comes
indirectly. The more we open our hearts to receive his love, the more
perfect will be the love we shall bear towards our fellow-beings. The
more constantly we feel that we are in his presence, the more perfect
will be the hourly outgoings of our lives.

Intimate Companionship with the Lord does not abstract us from the world
around us, but fills that world with new meanings. There is nothing
abstract in the nature of the Deity. He is operating perpetually upon
all nature. Gravity, organic life, instinct, human thought and
affection, are forms of his influx manifesting itself in varying
relations. Wherever he comes there is life, and his activity knows no

Let no human being think that he holds Companionship with the Lord,
because he loves to retire apart, to pray, or to contemplate the divine
attributes, if, at such times, he looks down upon, and shuns the haunts
of men. The bigot may do so; and all his thoughts about things holy, all
his prayers, only confirm him in his spiritual pride. Every thought of
self-elevation, every feeling that tends towards "I am holier than
thou," smothers the breath of all true prayer, and associates us with
the spirit of evil; for our prayers cannot be blessed to us if pride
inspire them. Neither let any one suppose himself spiritual because
material life or material duties oppress him. God made the material
world as a school for his children; and he will not keep us here a
moment after we are prepared for a higher state. We are putting
ourselves back when we work impatiently, in the feeling that the duties
of life are beneath us.

If we would abide with our Heavenly Father, we must cooperate with him
perpetually. It is doing his will, not contemplating it, that teaches us
his attributes, and builds us up in his image and likeness. His fields
are ever white unto the harvest; let us work while it is yet day, ever
bearing in mind that he gives us the power to work, and that we can work
rightly only so long as we live in the constant acknowledgment of our
dependence upon Him.


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