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various ends into one general system of action, animated by one common principle.
Nature furnishes us with the most complete exemplification of method. In her works, so full of order and harmony, we see system within system, but in each smaller and most minute circle the same method in the working out of results as in the greatest, — the construction of an insect's wing evincing the combination of means towards a definite object as plainly as the movements of the planets. The objects may differ in magnitude and importance, they may appeal to higher feelings and more powerfully affect the imagination, but the principle of order runs through all alike, and imparts to nature that harmony and consequent grandeur of aspect which impresses the mind so irresistibly with the sense of an invisible but all-pervading Power. And as we contemplate it, we feel compelled to believe in the existence of some yet wider system, of which that which we see forms but a part, — only one, perhaps, of the infinite methods employed in carrying out ends too vast to be apprehended by human intellect. The lesson thus learnt from the study of God's works should be applied to our own modes of action, and the same principle of well-ordered method should run through our life, from those high interests reaching far beyond our sight into the veiled regions of eternity, down to each small detail of daily duty. It is amongst the latter that we shall find the school for method, which may thence be carried up into a wider sphere.
We all know that some degree of arrangement is necessary in every scheme; for unless the means employed — whether many or few, simple or complicated — be duly combined towards the proposed end, they will neutralize or destroy each other. Method, then, implying deliberate arrangement in the use of means, and steady advance towards a definite point, must be the very essence of every well-grounded plan; that in which the nature of a plan consists; and to attempt the accomplishment of any design without it is the act of one who is so far an irrational creature that he is incapable of understanding the adaptation of means to ends. Let the number of under.
takings, public and private, which end in failure from this cause alone, proclaim how large a portion of mankind must in this sense be termed irrational !
All our duties, pursuits, and aims may be regarded as schemes, for there is or should be some settled purpose in them all ; and these again should find their due place as means in the general scheme of life. The latter requires, to carry it duly out, the strictest application of method ; yet to this it is most seldom applied ; and while common concerns are arranged, sometimes very carefully and minutely, on some sort of definite plan, in the general disposal of life there is too often no method, because the majority of mankind have in that highest concern no definite plan at all. They wish to get through life with as much ease to themselves, and as little harm to their neighbors, as they can, and to find themselves in heaven at last; but definite purpose they have none, and of any definite means of making the conflicting elements of human life harmonize towards a settled aim they have never thought. There is no method in their struggle with evil, for they wait to resist it till the hour of temptation arrives ; there is none in the formation of their own minds and characters, for these they leave to circumstances; there is none in the good they would do to others, for this they trust to impulse ; and none in their aims of bliss in another world, for they leave it to self-indulgent habits, frivolous ambition, and worldly desires, to cradle their dreams of heavenly glory. Little, then, is it to be wondered at, that the earthly temple of the Holy Spirit is so seldom built up to its fair and lofty proportions, and that what moralists and philosophers have said of the noble capabilities of the human soul remains rather, like the ancient statues of the gods, the ideal of beauty, than the representation of the actual.
Method, then, we repeat, in its true and wide sense, is that which orders the means towards carrying out the scheme of life; which classes and combines all our plans and pursuits with reference to this scheme, assigning to each its due place and value, and thereby introducing order and harmony into the endless diversity of aims, interests, and actions, which at first sight ap
pear so unconnected and confiicting. Between the life thus methodized, and one without method, there is the same ditierence as between the tangled mass of unwound silk, and the well-woven web.
To carry out this purpose, it is not enough merely to introduce method into our individual arrangements; we must also consider the wider system to which we belong, and the relations in which we are placed with regard to others, so as to understand the part we are destined to fill in the social economy, and regulate our individual scheme in accordance with it. We must remember that no human being stands alone; the moral world has no non-conductors by which to isolate us from our fellows, and break the natural affinities by which we are bound to them, and both influence and are influenced in return. Each indi. vidual forms part of the general system of society, and the sys. tem can work well, and produce its proper fruits of harmonious action and progressive improvement, in proportion only as each member understands his own position in it, and carefully studies. to fit himself for its duties.* If we were more in the habit of thus viewing our position in life, there would be less discontented struggling to shake off its duties and responsibilities, or to grasp at what does not belong to it. Each of us, down to the very humblest, might feel that he had an appointed place, and that his share of work, however homely, was as useful in its own sphere, and as necessary to the right working of the whole machinery, as the nobler labor of others. method there would be greater harmony of action, and real progress would take place of the jarring conflicts between indi. Thi viduals and classes which so grievously retard the full development of human means and capacities.
If we look at the actual state of education amongst us, and the views of life which it indicates, we shall at once perceive how much it is wanting in this higher order of method. As far, indeed, as worldly affairs are concerned, men generally find in their professional occupations, or in public business, the leading
* See Chap I. Part II.
idea or centre round which all other objects and pursuits group themselves, as conducive or subordinate to it. This, however, embraces only one portion of existence, and leaves all beyond to “ the reproof of chance," the vague and desultory guidance of circumstance. It brings method into their worldly career, but makes no attempt to connect this with the higher system of which it forms part, and with those aims which stretch into another stage of existence. But women have not even the advantage of a worldly object to give steadiness and consistency to their endeavors, and consequently their external life is as desultory as the inner is undisciplined.
To look for method where there is no object to aim at, were at least as unreasonable, as to expect to attain any specific object without its assistance, and female education is without method, because without a definite purpose or principle beyond that of compliance with the shifting rules of custom, fashion, or individual inclinations. Between a girl's education and her after-life there is no connection; the latter affords no certain sphere of action for the faculties trained and the knowledge acquired by the former. Even her moral and religious training, to which, generally, serious attention is paid, is so unsystematically carried on, the connection between the abstract principles taught, and their bearing on daily life, are so little, or so carelessly pointed out, that half their influence on character is lost. Morals are disconnected from religion, religion from the secular interests of life, and the training of the intellect regarded as apart from all, a mere matter of individual inclination, rather to be repressed than encouraged. The consequence is, that to each portion of her ordinary education a woman must bring a different view of life, and different principle of action, and these again must be exchanged when she enters the world, for those prevailing in the society to which she belongs. When a young girl, for instance, is spending joyless days over the lessons which are only interrupted by walks no less monotonous, her teachers must certainly urge her to perseverance by considerations very different from those which, at another time, are brought forward to convince her that learning is pedantic and unnatural in a woman, and that light and frivolous pursuits are her proper and graceful vocation. Or when emulation is stimulated to the utmost, and to excel others is made the first object of exertion, there is evidently some different view of life from that which condemns all ambition in women, and teaches the young girl to look forward to a life of retirement and submission. But we have already pointed out the inconsistency which is the characteristic of our system of education, and which results from conflicting interests, and the absence of any paramount definite aim to impel the various endeavors in the same direction. It follows, that till that aim is determined, - till knowledge is sought for objects higher than its worldly value, till the training of the mind is considered as a duty in itself, irrespective of any forms of mental labor required by our position on earth, - till morals are regarded as practical religion, and religion as embracing the whole of life, by affording its ruling principle and its loftiest hopes, there can be no method in women's education or existence. Their training, in short, must take a higher aim, and embrace a wider scope, than the ordinary education of the other sex, founded on worldly motives which cannot affect them, or it will never rise above what it is now, the superficial polish of the mind without the real cul. ture which should develop its powers, and train them to fulfil the important purposes for which they were given.
There is the same difference in this respect between women and men, as between the man of leisure and the man of busi
The former has not the practical object of the latter to force him to exertion ; if, therefore, he has not some higher purposes in view, he sinks into a mere idler, and shuffles on through an aimless, useless existence, scarcely so noble an animal as his dog or his horse. Women of the upper classes enjoy, in their exemption from labor, and their freedom from the shackles of business or ambition, an inestimable advantage over the other sex, if rightly understood and made available for self-improvement; but if felt only as an excuse for idleness by the indolent, and as a privation by the active-minded, then it becomes, instead of an advantage, a real misfortune. In one