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Is a lady, however destitute of talents, education, or knowledge of the world, whose studies have been completed by a circulating library, in any distress of mind the writing a novel suggests itself as the best soother of her sorrows : Does she labour under any depression of circumstances : Writing a novel occurs as the readiest receipt for mending them And she solaces herself with the conviction that the subscription which has been given to her importunity or her necessities has been offered as an homage to her genius. And this confidence instantly levies a fresh contribution for a succeeding work. Capacity and cultivation are so little taken into the account, that writing a book seems to be now considered as the only sure resource which the idle and the illiterate have always in their power. May the author be indulged in a short digression while she remarks, though rather out of its place, that the corruption occasioned by these books has spread so wide, and descended so low, that not only among milliners, mantua-makers, and other trades where numbers work together, the labour of one girl is frequently sacrificed, that she may be spared to read those mischievous books to the others; but she has been assured by clergymen, who have witnessed the fact, that they are procured and greedily read in the wards of our Hospitals an awful hint, that those who teach the poor to read, should not only take care to furnish them with principles which will lead them to abhor corrupt books, but should also furnish them with : such books as shall strengthen and confirm their principles.* And let every Christian remember, that there is whose justly admired writings in this kind are accurate histories of life and manners, and striking delineations of character. It is not their fault if their works have been attended with the consequences which usually
attend good originals, that of giving birth to a multitude of miserable imitations.
* The above facts furnish no ment on the side of those who would keep the poor in ignorance. Those who cannot read can hear, and are likely to hear to worse purpose than those who have been better taught. And that ignorance furnishes no security for integrity either in morals or politics, the late revolts in more than one country, remarkable for the ignorance of the poor, fully illustrate. . It is earnestly hoped that the above facts may tend to impress ladies with the importance of superintending the instruction of the poor, and of making it an indispensable part of their charity to give them moral and religious books.
no other way of entering truly into the spirit of that divine prayer, which petitions that the name of God may be “hallowed,” that “his kingdom (of grace) may come,” and that “his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven,” than by cach individual contributing according to his measure to accomplish the work for which he prays ; for to pray that these great objects may be promoted, without contributing to their promotion by our exertions, our money, and our influence, is a palpable inconsistency.
On the religious and moral use of History and Geography.
BUT while every sort of useful knowledge should be carefully imparted to young persons, it should be imparted not merely for its own sake, but also for the sake of its subserviency to higher things. All human learning should be taught, not as an end, but a means ; and in this view even a lesson of history or geography may be converted into a lesson of religion. In the study of history, the instructor will accustom the pupil not merely to store her memory with facts and anecdotes, and to ascertain dates and epochas; but she will accustom her also : to trace effects to their causes, to examine the secret springs of action, and accurately to observe the operation of the passions. It is only meant to notice here some few of the moral benefits which may be derived from a judicious perusal of history;..and from among other points of instruction, I select the following. 2- The study of history may serve to give a clearer insight into the corruption of human nature : It may shew the filan of Providence in the direction of events, and in the use of unworthy instruments : It may assist in the vindication of Providence, in the common failure of virtue and success of vice: It may lead to a distrust of our own judgment : l It may contribute to our improvement in self-knowedge.
But to prove to the pupil the important doctrine of human corruption for the study of history, will require a truly Christian commentator; for, from the low standard of right established by the generality of historians, who erect so many persons into good characters who fall short of the true idea of Christian virtue, the unassisted reader will be liable to form very imperfect views of what is real goodness; and will conclude, as his author sometimes does, that the true idea of human nature is to be taken from the medium between his best and his worst characters; without acquiring a just notion of that prevalence of evil, which in spite of those few brighter luminaries that here and there just serve to gild the gloom of history, tends abundantly to establish the doctrine. It will indeed be continually establishing itself by those who, in perusing the history of mankind, carefully mark the progress of sin, from the first timid irruption of an evil thought, to the fearless accomplishment of the abhorred crime in which that thought has ended : from the indignant question, “Is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing !” to the perpetration of that very enormity of which he could not endure the slightest suggestion.
In this connexion may it not be observed, that young persons should be put on their guard against a too implicit belief in the flattering accounts which some voyagewriters are fond of exhibiting of the virtue, amiableness, and benignity of some of the countries newly discovered by our circumnavigators, the superior goodness ascribed to the Hindoos, and particularly the account of the inhabitants of the Pelew Islands : These last indeed have been almost represented as having escaped the universal taint of our common nature, and would seem by their purity to have sprung from another ancestor than Adam.
One cannot forbear suspecting that these pleasing but somewhat overcharged portraits of man, in his natural state, are drawn with the invidious design, by counteracting the doctrine of human corruption, to degrade the value and even destroy the necessity of the Christian re
* 2 Kings viii. 13.
ligion. That in countries professing Christianity, very many are not Christians will be too readily granted. Yet, to say nothing of the vast superiority of goodness in the lives of those who are really governed by Christianity, is there not something even in her reflex light which guides to greater purity many of those who do not profess to walk by it ! I doubt much, if numbers of the unbelievers of a Christian country, from the sounder views and better habits derived incidentally and collaterally, as it were, from the influence of a Gospel, the truth of which however they do not acknowledge, would not start at many of the actions which these heathem fierfectionists daily commit without hesitation. The religious reader of general history will observe the controlling hand of Providence in the direction of events, and in turning the most unworthy actions and instruments to the accomplishment of his own purposes. She will mark infinite Wisdom directing what appears to be casual occurrences, to the completion of his own plan. She will point out how causes seemingly the most unconnected, events seemingly the most unpromising, circumstances seemingly the most incongruous, are all working together for some final good. She will mark how national as well as individual crimes are often overruled to some hidden purpose far different from the intention of the actors: how Omnipptence can and often does, bring about the best purposes by the worst instruments : how the bloody and unjust conqueror is but “the rod of His wrath,” to punish or to purify his offending children; how “the fury of the oppressor,” and the sufferings of the oppressed, will one day vindicate His righteous dealings. She will unfold to the less enlightened reader how infinite Wisdom often mocks the insignificance of human greatness, and the shallowness of human ability, by setting aside instruments the most powerful, while he works by agents comparatively contemptible. But she will carefully guard this doctrine of Divine Providence, thus working out his own purposes through the sins of his creatures, and by the instrumentality of the wicked, by calling to mind, that while the offender is but a tool in the hands of the great artificer, “yet woe be to him by whom the of
fence cometh " She will explain how all the mutations and revolutions in states which appear to us so unaccountable, and how those operations of Providence which seem to us so entangled and complicated, all move harmoniously and in perfect order: that there is not an event but has its commission; not a misfortune which breaks its allotted rank ; not a trial which moves out of its appointed track. While calamities and cries seem to fly in casual confusion, all is commanded or permitted; all is under the control of a wisdom which cannot err, of a goodness which cannot do wrong. To explain my meaning by a few instances. When the spirit of the youthful reader rises in honest indignation at that hypocritical piety which divorced an unoffending Queen to make way for the lawful crime of our eighth Henry's marriage with Ann Boleyn; and when that indignation is increased by the more open profligacy which brought about the execution of the latter; the instructor will not lose so fair an occasion for unfolding how in the councils of the Most High the crimes of the king were overruled to the happiness of the country; and how, to this inauspicious marriage, from which the heroic Elizabeth sprung, the protestant religion owed its firm stability. She will explain to her, how even the conquests of ambition, after having deluged a land with blood, and involved the perpetrator in guilt, and the innocent victim in ruin, may yet be made the instruments of opening to future generations the way to commerce, to civilization, to Christianity. She may remind her, as they are following Caesar in his invasion of Britain, that whereas the conqueror fancied he was only gratifying his own inordinate ambition, extending the flight of the Roman Eagle, immortalizing his own name, and proving that “this world was made for Caesar;” he was in reality becoming the effectual though unconscious instrument of leading a land of barbarians to civilization and to science : and was in fact preparing an island of Pagans to embrace the religion of Christ. She will inform her, that when the above-named victorious nation had made Judea a Roman province, and the Jews had become their tributaries, the Romans did not know, nor did the *** Jews suspect, that this 2