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with the lawful guides of human action. It is needless to say more; and, indeed, we apprehend less difficulty in persuading women to attend to this part of intellectual cultivation than to some of the graver studies we have before recommended. However little the previous course of education may have done for them in this respect, the imaginative faculties are seldom materially injured at the age when girls are left to choose their own pursuits. It is the very age when these faculties are most active

that blooming period of youth when all the quick, warm impulses of feeling are bursting into life, and daily gaining strength; when existence is putting on a fresh aspect of delight; when the heart throbs with untried emotions, and every wish is a hope, and every hope seems a certainty, and all the realities of life are seen through the bright ideal of happy thoughts! It is not at such a time, and with all the sensitive tenderness of woman's nature, that it can be hard to cultivate imagination; that the contemplation of the pure and the sublime, and the study of the noblest works of genius, can be irksome, or the love of the beautiful difficult to cherish; the beautiful, of which youth itself is so glowing a type! And to those who can look beyond this bright spring-time of life, who can anticipate the days when its beauty will fade, and its joy fall away as the seared leaves from the autumn bough, it is needless to say more to prove how valuable, for its own sake, imagination is to women. We can only repeat what we said in the last chapter on the peculiar value to them of a strong mental impulse to invigorate and cheer them to meet many of the trials of their position. In this respect the influence of imagination on the mind is truly precious; peopling an inactive or a solitary life with images of undying beauty, with thoughts and noble aspirations which link it with the great and the good in all ages; shedding over a life of petty cares the grandeur of the ideal, while adding its own energy to the power of religious hope; and blessing a life of anxiety or self-sacrifice with visions of a higher bliss, springing, phoenix-like, from the ashes of earthly joys.

CULTIVATED IMAGINATION.

CHAPTER XIV.

RELIGION

We have placed this chapter last, because religion, in its genuine and comprehensive sense, sums up within itself all the principles we have hitherto laid down. In that sense it is the belief in a Supreme Being of infinite power and goodness standing towards us in the relation of Creator, Father, and Redeemer. It is the feeling of love and faith which should spring from that relation, and, as a necessary consequence, the acknowledgment that, to conform our will to His, to bring our whole life into unison with His laws, is the service required of us as rational and responsible beings, and the fittest homage to be offered by the creature to the Creator.

The principles we have hitherto endeavoured to explain and apply, derive their force from the constitution given to us by God; and to admit and carry them out, becomes, therefore, part of our obedience to Him. It is on these grounds that we have rested the duty of self-education, and the latter, considered as the lifelong endeavour to train ourselves to that perfection which Christ commanded, when he said, "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect," may truly be termed practical religion. The former part of this little work has been occupied entirely with the means placed in our own power of reaching that great end, and we shall now dwell exclusively on the motives held out to us by Christianity for the prosecution of our task, and the practical influence it should exercise over our lives. In doing so, we shall abstain as much as possible from any approach to doctrinal theology, which would be wholly out of place in a work like the present, even were the authors capable of adding any

INFLUENCE OF RELIGION.

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thing of value to the mass of theological writings already in existence. Our object is not to advocate the doctrines or the forms of any particular denomination of Christians, but to point out the essential principles which are or should be common to all, and, at the same time, to mark those errors which most tend to lessen the influence, and retard the progress of genuine Christianity. By exposing the fallacies from which such errors spring, we hope to aid the young in the attempt to build their faith on a broader and sounder basis, and, by showing them what religion really is, to save them from being misled by that spurious piety of form or sentiment which too often usurps its

name.

And let us remember, that as our religion is, so shall we be ourselves. In exact proportion as that is noble or trivial, reasonable or superstitious, comprehensive or bigoted, shall our own minds and characters approach or fall short of the standard of Christian excellence. The essential principle of all religion is the acknowledgment of God's will as the moral law of our actions. It follows, therefore, that, on our view of what is God's will, depends our view of the nature and extent of our duties. If, for instance, we narrow His law to creeds and observances, our sense of duty will extend no farther, and, as may daily be seen amongst an ignorant Roman Catholic population, moral purity and rectitude will be considered as entirely indifferent provided the forms of religion be scrupulously observed.*

It has been remarked, that the conception of God generally prevailing at any time amongst a people, is the best measure of the moral cultivation of that period, and this view is abundantly confirmed by the religious history of nations. In the dark ages we find the popular conception of the Deity scarcely superior to the heathen notions of Odin or Thor. By the baron and the serf, He was regarded as a sort of superior feudal Lord, to whom a certain amount of sacrifice was due, and whose anger was to be propitiated by rites and offerings. The gross superstition, and yet grosser crimes of that age, were the natural fruits of such a

* A fearful instance of this is related in the German writer Schokke's Autobiography (Selbstschau). In 1799, a French soldier was proceeding with his guide through one of the passes of the canton of Uri, in Switzerland. They were perceived by three labourers, who were at work on a height above the road, and who, after a few moments consultation, followed them, and massacred the soldier with their pick-axes, without exchanging a word with him or his guide. They then stripped the bloody corpse, and having divided the booty, knelt down and said over it two Ave Marias and one Paternoster, set apart a certain sum for masses for the soul of their victim, and went quietly home to bed! Schokke learnt the story from the confession of one of the murderers.

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belief. To the religious reformer of a later age, God was an avenging spirit, pouring out wrath and destruction on the doomed race of men, while snatching the small number of the elect as brands from the burning. The fierce hatred which animated the religionists of this stamp against their opponents, the sweeping consignment of man and the physical universe to the possession of Satan, the utter absence from the opinions and characters of men, of all the milder and more benign features of Christianity, were the direct consequences of such a conception of God, and were but partially compensated by the greater strictness on some points of morality of those who entertained it. In our own day people are generally free enough from the gross superstition of one age, and the stern fanaticism of the other. But the general conception of God and religion is still far below the level of our knowledge and material civilization. Too many of us are those Christians, of whom Jeremy Taylor said, "They think God is tied to their sect, and bound to be of their party, and the interest of their opinion, and they think He can never go to the enemy's side, so long as they charm Him with certain forms of words and disguises of their own."* We may be less cruel, less superstitious than our forefathers, but we are also less earnest. For their deep feeling of God's presence and agency in human affairs, we have substituted technical systems of theology, zeal for a church or a party. We do not believe with the Roman Catholie of the middle ages, that masses and alms will buy pardon for our sins; but we indulge our worldly propensities as freely on six days of the week, and go to church as diligently on the seventh, as if we did. We do not believe with the Covenanters of the 17th century, that human nature and the physical universe are given over to the Devil; but we take no more pains than they to reconcile the spiritual with the temporal law, our knowledge with our faith. We have two lives, one for this world, and one for the world to come; two principles, one for Sundays, and one for week days; two masters, God and Mammon. The cause of this division between our religious and our secular life, may, perhaps, be ascribed to our religion having preserved the form it assumed three centuries ago, under the influence of views of human nature, and the moral government of the world, wholly irreconcileable with the more enlarged knowledge of the present day. But whatever the cause, the result of the discrepancy is to weaken conviction, and to make religion a form, a sentiment, or a party watchword, but to exclude it from the general practical realities of life. The child feels this discrepancy long before he understands it.

Sermon on Return of Prayers.

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It widens with every succeeding year, as the cares and interests of life become more engrossing, and ends, at last, but too often, in open irreligion, or in that formal profession which is almost

worse.

Before arriving at this point, however, there is in earnest minds a long and painful struggle to reconcile their religious views and principles with their secular pursuits and aims; and it is in the hope of aiding such as these in their task that we have endeavoured to sketch out, however imperfectly, that view of life which embraces in one harmonious whole the duties of this state of existence and the preparation for the next, the affections and the pursuits which belong to our present constitution, and the aims and hopes which stretch forward to a higher sphere.

One of the first chapters of this work was devoted to showing the necessity of regulating life upon system, methodically carried out. System implies the existence of one governing idea or principle in accordance with which the whole is regulated, and which gives the measure of the relative value and position of each separate part.* If we apply this to the government of life, it becomes apparent that the principle on which our system is to be regulated must be wide enough to include the whole range of human thought and action. A more partial one would leave out some faculty, exclude some principle and the full harmony of our being would be destroyed. The whole of life, from its most important duties to its most trifling pleasures, must find place in such a system, and its leading principle must regulate thought no less than feeling, action no less than passion, the outer no less than the inner life. The Christian religion alone affords us such a system and such a principle. Its system is the perfection of the nature bestowed upon us; its principle, obedience to God's will through love towards Him. Such obedience is not the mere observance of positive precepts, but the earnest desire to conform our whole being to that design which the study of his laws leads us to believe was that of the Creator in giving us life. To discover this design we must seek His will in all its manifestations, in His works no less than in His word, in the constitution of our own minds, the physical order of the universe, and the providence which governs the progress and development of individuals and of society. Wherever we can discover a law, there, as we have be

* It was not till after our own work was written that we met with that admirable pamphlet, entitled "One-Manifold or System," by the Rev. James S. Boone. We could not but feel gratified by the coincidence of our views with those of so able and learned a man as Mr. Boone, but this very coincidence makes it necessary to state that it was wholly accidental, lest we should be suspected of having borrowed from him without due acknowledgment.

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