« ZurückWeiter »
proper rank, and are treated as companions and equals. For this happy improvement in their condition, they are indebted to Christianity, which, as well by humanizing and purifying the heart, as by the prohibition of polygamy, has loosed the bonds of their captivity, and, at the same time, adorned them with virtues, the most estimable and amiable.
The New Testament is the great charter of the rights of women; and not only the great charter of their rights, but the unerring directory of their duties, and the choice cabinet, as it were, of their most precious ornaments. As the benevolent system of Christianity frees them from vassalage, and exalts their rank in society, so it inspires them, at the same time, with a taste for what is morally excellent, and virtuous, and lovely. Nor is it a little remarkable, that of the religion, which so ennobles their sex, they are the first, the most general, and among the most effectual teachers. It is from women, that almost our whole sex, as well as theirs, receives its earliest instruction in religion and morality. Though they are neither missionaries abroad nor preachers at home, yet, as spreaders and promulgators of Christianity, they are hardly less useful than those venerable orders of men. Throughout all Christendom, as preceptresses, as mothers, and in their various domestic relations, they have the moulding of the minds of future men, as well as of future women, during those infantile years, in which the mind is comparable to soft wax, and when the impressions, which are made upon it, are the most indelible. So that it would not, perhaps, be extravagant to believe, that a full half of the whole Chris. tian world has been christianized, or first imbued with Christian principles, by means of female teachers.
Scarcely any thing admits of clearer proof from history, than that the institutions for alleviating human misfortune and distress have grown out of the Christian religion; and nothing, surely, could confer greater dignity on the female sex, than its active and zealous co-operation in establishing such plans of general philanthropy.
All along, from the first age of Christianity, down to later times, there have been women, highly distinguished for their pious benevolence, and active beneficence; but, not having learned to form themselves into societies for joint acts of charity, their solitary or individual efforts could afford relief to but few. For the present illustrious epoch, in the christianized world, has been reserved the honor of multiplying and extending, far beyond all former examples, their humane plans and institutions. Multiplied as these have been, and multiplying as they are likely to be, no tongue can tell, no heart conceive, the benefits of the little streamlets, issuing in such innumerable directions from this single source ;-benefits not only to the Receivers, but also to the Givers; for it is even more blessed to give than to receive." The occupations of charity nourish and strengthen some of the best feelings of the heart, and, at the same time, are rewarded with the enjoyment of a higher pleasure, than the hoards of wealth or its pageantries can ever bestow. «What wonders and whit pleasures has civilization procured to mankind !” So the philosopher exclaimed, and not without reason.
The civilized man possesses manifold more enjoyments, and stands vastly higher in the scale of human beings, than the naked savage, or the rude barbarian. But it is not mere civilization, nor mere learning, that has imbued the heart with the genuine feeling of humanity. See, on the page of history only fifteen centuries back, the ladies of Rome, that proud mistress of the world; see them seated in the amphitheatre, as delighted spectators of the mortal combats of gladiators; feasting their eyes with the bloody carnage, and their ears with the groans of the dying. And now see, on the other hand, tens and hundreds of thousands of females, of the present age, formed into societies for the alleviation of human distress; for the purpose of ministering to the widow, of sustaining the orphan, of clothing the naked, of feeding the hungry, or“ healing the broken and weak.” Behold these objects of striking contrast; and remember that the former had quite as much of polish, as much of elegance, and as much of learning as the lat
And what is it then, but the influence of Christian principles, that has made such an astonishing difference between them, in point of taste and sensibility ?
OF SELF-IGNORANCE, AND SELF-ADULATION.
-"The nature of mankind is such, To see and judge of the affairs of others Much better than their own."
The above-cited sentiment has not abated of its force, nor is it the less applicable to human nature at the present instant, though two thousand years have passed away, since it came from the of Terence, the poet of Carthage. In one respect, very few, if any, are altogether free from the imputation of making use of deception. It is one of the strange properties of our fallen nature, that we deceive ourselves, even more easily than we are deceived by others; and, though we are mightily offended when others deceive us, we are pleased with the deception which we palm upon ourselves. We love flattery, because it enables us to flatter ourselves; and we dislike honest reproof or censure, because it impels us to fix our eyes upon our own fault or frailties.
We weigh our own actions, and the actions of others, not in the same balance, or else with different kinds of weights. judge ourselves and our neighbors by different rules, which always gives the advantage to our own side. Imperfect we readily confess ourselves to be; but if one happen to impute to us any particular imperfection, we deem ourselves insulted, and instantly take fire. Mortal we know we are, and yet seem scarcely to expect either death or sickness; for these events, perhaps for the most part, come unawares. Probably there is not one well man in a hundred, who does not secretly think the fatal arrow more likely to hit almost any body else than himself. The young confidently expect they shall live to be old; and the old, who have already seen one generation pass away, are not without hope that they shall survive the greater part of another. The mass of mankind are, in short, perpetually deluding themselves one way or other; nor are the wisest and best quite free, in all respects, from self-delusion. Perhaps, if life were not in any wise, gilded by the enchanting power of imagination, there would be little relish for most of those things, which God hath given us to enjoy under the sun.
A very ancient writer has told us of a poor laborer who, fancying himself a king, repaired daily to a hillock, where, as on his throne, he sat in state, and exercised regal authority over the imaginary subjects that surrounded him; who, being at length cured of that pleasant error of the imagination, complained hard of his doctors, that they had physicked him back again to poverty. Nor is he a solitary instance. The most of mankind, in some period or other of their lives, have, perhaps, indulged vagaries of the imagination, quite as groundless, if not quite so extravagant; and which, if they led them not astray from either duty or prudence, did them benefit, by sweetening their toils, and smoothing the path