Amanda, Theodosia and Eusebia
Henry Thornton, 1846
The reader of the present volume will recognize in it the same Christian wisdom, the same practical devotion, the same sterling common sense — that rare quality, without which the application even of piety to the inculcation of religious truth is not always successful — which marked, in active life, the character of the late Henry Thornton; and which rendered that life a blessing while he was spared on earth; and have rendered his other posthumous works — and will, it is trusted, through the Grace of God, render this work also — a blessing to his country and to the Church of Christ.
Amanda is a young lady who, without possessing any peculiar piety, has received some very pleasing dispositions from nature, and has also derived great advantages from education.
When a child, she was the delight of her friends and companions, the favorite of her brothers, and the source of much happiness to her parents. She was good-natured and obliging, submissive and obedient, and singularly tender and affectionate. She was taught to rise early, to be temperate in her diet, to observe the utmost propriety in her dress, to be punctual to her appointments, and almost invariably to devote certain hours of the day to their appropriate occupations. She thus became exercised in habits both of bodily and mental self-denial and diligence.
Her temperament, originally fine, was rendered still more excellent by the management of a most able, though not very religious governess. The eye of this lady was constantly upon her charge. Every attitude and gesture of the young pupil was observed; and her manners were formed according to the strictest rules of female decorum. The purity of her mind was at the same time consulted — for the perusal of novels, with few exceptions, and likewise of some compositions of our English poets, was disallowed.
When Amanda came out into the world, she was everywhere accompanied by her prudent and experienced mother, who assiduously instructed her in all those rules of worldly wisdom and precaution by which the character of a young woman becomes established in fashionable society. She was enjoined to refrain from indulging herself in violent and hasty friendships; and at the same time to beware of raising up any enemies. Hence she was admonished to restrain the first impulse of her feelings, either of affection or dislike; to bestow her attentions both on the old and on the young; both on her acquaintance of a lower, and on those of a higher class; to speak somewhat favorably of all; to bear patiently the tediousness and dullness of unattractive individuals; and when accosted by young men too freely and familiarly, to be proportionably guarded, and ceremoniously polite.
Amanda has been taught to mix some flattery with her civilities; she has, however, practiced in the school of the world a certain kind of useful discipline and self-command. Her ideas have also been enlarged by opportunities of hearing the conversation of intelligent men, the extent of whose talents and information has moderated her opinion of herself; and her increasing acquaintance with people of the highest rank, has continually added a fresh polish to her manners.
Amanda joins to a sound understanding — a very kind and sympathizing heart; while her benevolence, therefore, makes her wish to please — her good sense enables her, in almost all cases, to effect her purpose. She enters into every feeling of her company. She has now acquired, through long practice, an almost intuitive perception of what is deemed by the more refined part of society, to be proper to be said and done on every occasion. Among her superiors and equals, she is an accomplished woman; she is attentive without oppressing them by her civilities. She furnishes her share of agreeable remark; yet never engrosses, and rarely leads the conversation. She indulges in no egotisms; betrays no disgusting vanity; is hurried into no improprieties of temper; allows herself in no violent exaggerations; and avoids, especially when she is in mixed company, censorious observations on absent characters. If she utters a sarcasm — it is against herself; if she relates an interesting anecdote — it is to the advantage of some other person.
Amanda likewise manifests great kindness when she finds herself in a circle of her inferiors. Many women in her rank of life take credit for general condescension, because they sometimes show a compassionate attention to the lowest of their fellow-creatures. They are not aware that benevolence and humility are much more clearly evinced, by affability towards people placed only at a small distance below them, people with whom they are in some danger of being confounded.
Amanda has gained her popularity in the quarter of which I now speak, by manners a little different from those which she adopts in the higher circles. Fearing to distress her more humble acquaintance by too stiff a silence, she often takes the lead among them, and communicates freely that superior knowledge which she possesses. Her conversation is restrained only when there is danger of too much encouraging the forward or the vain. No people offend her taste more than those individuals of the middling class who affect gentility — but are evidently underbred. Her benevolence, however, prevailing over her fastidiousness — she sympathizes with these as with others.
But if I wished to exhibit Amanda in the most favorable point of view in which she can be placed — I would draw her picture when she is visiting the poor who surround her father's splendid mansion in the country. She occasionally enters the humble abodes of the cottagers, inquires into the health of each member of the family, and examines into their means of comfortable subsistence. She imparts to the unlettered tribe, the information with which she has, for their sakes, enriched herself. She labors assiduously to remove their prejudices. She instructs them how to improve their chimneys, to economize their fuel, to render their food more cheap, wholesome, and nutritious; how to mitigate the diseases, and perhaps preserve the lives of their children.
Is there a bickering among the females of the village? She enters with calmness and precision into the causes of the dissension; and allays the heat through the influence of her authority. By her known determination not to favor the unworthy — she promotes much honest industry. She saves not a few in the extremity of their poverty; for she reports to her fond and admiring father the cases which she has seen, and extracts from his purse many a piece of silver or of gold, which, if Amanda had not interposed, would have been applied to very different uses.
I have observed that Amanda, nevertheless, is not particularly distinguished for piety. I did not mean to affirm that she had no religion. There is so natural an alliance between piety and benevolence, (the benevolence, I mean, which is active and self-denying,) that where I see a pre-eminent degree of the one — I feel almost irresistibly impelled to assume the existence of some portion of the other.
Amanda is a professor of Christianity. She occasionally receives the sacrament, and prepares herself for it with great solemnity. She behaves, I am sure, with great propriety when she is at church. She kneels very devoutly during the prayers, and evidently listens to the sermon. I take for granted that she is accustomed to say her daily prayers; and I have heard from good authority that she reads her Bible. She dwells, indeed, on what she calls the plainer parts. She prefers the Gospels to the Epistles; the Sermon on the Mount to any other portion of the Gospels; and the text, "Judge not, that you be not judged," to every other passage of the Sermon.
She denies, however, no one doctrine of Christianity. She is neither skeptic, heretic, nor schismatic. She is as religious as anyone needs to be in the opinion of the majority of her friends, as well as in that of more than half the world. She is rather too religious according to the views of that part of her acquaintance, who are very giddy, and somewhat profane. Still, however, according to my idea, piety is the very article in which Amanda will be found to fail.
But how shall I prove my point? My first step shall be to subjoin some few additional observations respecting Amanda; and I will afterwards endeavor to mark her deficiencies by the means of two other characters of my acquaintance. I begin with the defects of Amanda's faith.
It is true, that she does not deny, as was before observed, any one doctrine of Christianity; but to none of them does she give sufficient prominence and weight. She submits to them with all due reverence, accounting it to be stubbornness and rebellion against the authority of the Church to question their truth. But she examines little into their practical consequences; she perceives them indistinctly, believes them faintly, and interprets them loosely.
The truth is, that she has as yet made but small progress towards emerging out of that state of natural ignorance and error respecting these subjects, in which we remain — until a discovery of the evil of sin, and a sense of our own exposure to the just condemnation of God, on account of our transgressions, make us fly for refuge to the grace of the Gospel. Hence, though deeming herself a perfect church-woman in her faith, she is apt to side, in some respects, with the very apostles of heterodoxy; and when accused of a departure from the true tenets of the Church, I have known her to justify herself exactly as they do, by observing, that to perform well our relative duties (a phrase which too often means little more than to be respectful to our relations and attentive to the courtesies of life) is the great point, and that practice is all in all.
Amanda, I am confident, cannot but confess, that although she is warm in her natural feelings — she is, at present, very cold in her religion. Even before her most private friends, she says little on the subject. She has a maxim by which she justifies her silence. She holds it to be a degradation of Christianity to turn it into a topic of familiar discourse. Religion, she tells you, is a private thing. By means of this sentiment she conceals from herself and others her lack both of that sound religious knowledge which will stand discussion, and of a more operative and lively faith. She forgets that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth" will not fail to "speak." In short, she rather excites in me the idea of "the languid professor of a hereditary faith," than of the partaker of the animated joys, the glorious hopes, and the blessed consolations of the Gospel.
But let us next consider more particularly her practice; for as yet we have viewed it chiefly on the favorable side. The great source of Amanda's deficiency in this respect (for great will her deficiency be found to be) is the same which has been already mentioned as the cause of the errors in her faith — namely, the lack of a just sense of the true nature and evil of sin. In estimating guilt, she considers not so much the transgression against God — as the offence against society, or the injury done to some individual. Observe her language: "virtuous and wicked, mischievous and beneficial, criminal and innocent, honorable and dishonorable, correct and incorrect, creditable and discreditable, proper and improper," are her terms. The word "sinful" is scarcely to be found in her vocabulary; nor are the terms, "godly," "sanctified," "holy," "children of God," "regenerate," to be discovered in her divinity. All these are deemed by her to be theological expressions, derived indeed from the New Testament, and transferred from thence into our ancient and venerable liturgy, and even adopted into the language of our ancestors. But then she well remembers how much religion was discredited in a former century, by some who remarkably abounded in a phraseology of this sort.
Amanda keeps extremely clear of their fault. Her error is on the side of the contrary extreme. I grant that it may be proper to make a guarded use even of those scriptural expressions, which have been heretofore much perverted, or may now be imperfectly understood; and that the pious mind will affix a Christian sense to more modern theological phrases. I apprehend, however, that Amanda is in great danger of annexing to the terms which she employs, those low ideas which they are so well calculated to convey; for both the company which she keeps, and even the books of morality which she peruses, contribute to give to her mind that irreligious bias of which I complain.
Amanda is a great enemy to the new French philosophy — but she is not aware how naturally she is carried by the general spirit of the times towards the very system which she condemns. Her ethics are not sufficiently founded on religion. She draws her motives from earth, rather than from Heaven. She is too much used to consider human actions as bad — in proportion either as they violate conscience, however unenlightened, or as they wound our natural and instinctive sensibility, or as they offend against man's short-sighted notions of expediency, or as they depart from certain trifling rules of propriety and decorum, or contradict the maxims of honor established by the world. They are far too little contemplated as violations of the revealed law of God, or as means of drawing down His indignation. It is on this account that I term her a moral rather than a religious character.
One consequence of this fundamental error in Amanda is her lack of a sufficient perception of the evil of profaneness. I do not say that she herself is accustomed to make a light use of the solemn name of God: but I affirm that she day by day hears it profaned by others without apparent emotion, and without seeming to feel any consequent diminution of the pleasure derived from their society. It will, perhaps, be said in her excuse, that she is scarcely sensible of these violations of the Third Commandment. I grant it — and her insensibility it is which establishes my argument.
Her Sunday is by no means very strictly kept; and even the more gross violations of it by others are not the objects of her very serious regret, much less of her censure. I may possibly be suspected of requiring her to observe the day in a more strict and pharisaical manner, than the liberal spirit of Christianity demands. I reply, that her Sunday, with even its few strictnesses, is now a burden to her; and that this consequence results from her viewing Christianity too much in the light in which the Jews contemplated their religion — namely, as a law of works and ceremonial observances; and from her esteeming it too little as a dispensation of pardon to the guilty, and of mercy, consolation, hope, and joy. Her religion having on this account never much interested her feelings — is not sufficiently the subject of her conversation, of her reading, and of her meditation. As soon as Amanda shall begin to derive pleasure from the Gospel, she will naturally incline to the more strict, or as I would rather call it, the more religious observation of the Sabbath.
But the great practical evil which results from her estimating right and wrong so much by the rules and maxims of men, and so little by the spiritual and perfect law of God, is this: she is tempted habitually to regard actions — rather than motives; the propriety of the words which she utters — rather than the purity of the inward thought which dictated them; the outward manners — more than the holiness of the heart. "The law of The Lord is perfect, converting the soul;" but the law of man is imperfect, principally regarding the mere actions of this life, and concerning itself with only a small portion even of these.
Amanda! have you ever carefully considered this perfection of the law of God? Do you habitually scrutinize all those various motives, affections, and imaginations of your mind, which it is the express object of the divine law to regulate? Have you ever surveyed the vast extent of your duties, and contemplated the guilt of each sin, even of omission? I suspect that a large number of your actions are conceived by you to belong to a class, which you term indifferent. I am afraid you imagine, for example, that conscience needs to take no cognizance of the manner in which you employ a great portion of your time, of your conversation, substance, and influence. The duties of life, as you term them, being fulfilled, and of these you have a very narrow idea — I fear that the remainder of your talents is deemed to be at the disposal of your own desires; conscience merely demanding that they shall be turned to no use directly mischievous: and because some part of this large remnant is employed according to the dictates of your natural benevolence, I fear, that instead of saying, "When we have done all, we are but unprofitable servants" — that you are ready to take credit for certain works of merit.
But be assured, there can be no action which is strictly indifferent, no hour which is without its duty; that even no deed can be strictly right, in the place of which a better might have been substituted; that our very amusements need to be subjected to the law of God; and all our affections to be measured out according to the dictates of the same law — God Himself being the supreme object of our desire. Such sentiments as these would suggest to you, on the one hand, a high standard of practice — and would produce, on the other, a very deep humility.
I must name another important evil which results from the system of Amanda. I have often observed in her a disposition to value too highly in others, that kind of correctness in which she herself excels; and I suspect that, in spite of all her benevolence, she exercises too little charity towards those who may have heretofore grievously offended. Would you convince Amanda that you are a good Christian? You must prove to her that you have been free from great sins, even from your youth. In your professions of repentance, she will have little faith. Habits, as she thinks, are invincible. Certain great crimes indicate a state that is incurable. When reputation is lost, she fears that all is lost.
Amanda! Have you ever reflected how small has been your own temptation to those sins, into which some others have fallen? What if the case should change, and the providence of God should expose you to some trial? May not the present innocence of your life, as you are too much disposed to term it, result rather from your circumstances than from any strength of holy principles which you possess? "Be not high-minded — but fear. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."
Amanda therefore, in some degree, resembles those Pharisees who are described in Scripture as possessing a superficial righteousness, in which they trusted, and as having too little respect for the repenting publican and sinner. But let me not be misunderstood; I would be most unjust if I were to liken her in all respects to the ancient Pharisee. The comparison would fail in a number of most important particulars. She does not "devour widows' houses, and, for a pretense, make long prayers." She does not "choose the chief place in the synagogues, and love to be called Rabbi." She does not "persecute the prophets from city to city, and scourge them, and put them to death." Unquestionably, she is not what the Pharisee was — an example of the highest degree of sanctimonious pride, and prejudice, and hypocrisy, and the arch enemy of Jesus Christ. I would esteem it a sin to brand her, in any unqualified manner, with a name which she so little merits. Nevertheless, I must insist that she would have gained a great step in Christianity if her character were farther removed from that of him, who said, "God, I thank You that I am not as other men are," and if she more resembled the man who smote upon his heart, exclaiming, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
But a few remarks must be added on one part of Amanda's conduct, which was before very favorably noticed. I praised this benevolent creature when in the country. There, indeed, she chiefly shines. But what is she when in London? Even here it has been acknowledged that she is polite, agreeable, and actuated by a desire to please. But then Amanda has the honor of visiting, when she is in town, about eight hundred people; and her habitual endeavor seems to be to please and satisfy them all. The general character of this immense host of people is far inferior to that of Amanda, in point both of benevolence and of religion.
Among them are some Atheists and Deists; a great multitude who practically disbelieve; not a few very light and dissipated women; and a large proportion of notoriously licentious men. Amanda is popular in every part of the circle which I have described. Whence then is that good fame which she has acquired in so many wicked quarters? Does it not result from a too great toleration of certain things which she sees and hears? Can she then possess a sufficiently tender conscience? Would she be thus agreeable, if, either by her conduct, by her words, or even by her looks — she gave to every species of sin and impiety, the due discouragement and reprehension? Amanda professes to believe in Jesus Christ, and I feel very unwilling to suggest doubts respecting the sincerity of her faith; but was He popular with all the world? Did He not often testify of it that its works were evil? And was it not by the severity of His reproofs, that He provoked the anger of His persecutors?
But, it may be said, Amanda is a woman; that she is also a young person; and that it would be presumptuous in her to pretend to imitate the Savior. I grant that to do in all respects as He did, would be to mistake the line of our duty; but are the followers of Christ to maintain no warfare with the world? What is baptism, but a profession of this very warfare? And what is Christianity, but a following of Jesus Christ?
"But Amanda," it will also be replied, "is so extremely affectionate and kind! She is benevolence itself; and it is the mere excess of her charity which causes her to lean, perhaps, a little too much to the accommodating side."
Was He then, whose religion she professes to follow, less exuberant in his kindness, or less tender in His nature than Amanda? His conflict with sin was one effect of His benevolence. He would have been less benevolent if He had been less strenuous in opposing the corruptions of the world. Here, therefore, I am reminded of the observation which has been already more than once introduced. Amanda sees but imperfectly, the evil of sin. Hence proceed her erroneous ideas of Christian doctrine; hence her low standard of practice; hence her inadequate conceptions of the iniquity prevailing in the world. The sins which she faintly discerns, she feebly opposes. When she beholds pain, sorrow, sickness — her instinctive benevolence makes her endeavor to remove them; but moral evil does not equally engage her attention. She imitates her Savior in endeavoring to mitigate the common troubles of life; but she is not earnest like Him to promote the spirit of true and universal holiness in the world.
She discourses agreeably with her company; when she opens her lips, she conveys pleasure to all around — but her's is a narrow, and, in many cases, a mistaken benevolence. She endeavors to make them happier — but not by rendering them holier. She delights you for the moment — but she discovers little aim to communicate that permanent enjoyment which results from the knowledge and love of Christ.
Amanda! I appeal now to your benevolence. Whence come those pains and griefs which, when in the country at least, you are so much occupied in assuaging? Come they not chiefly from the sinful passions of men? The grand source of human miseries, is the moral evil of the world. The man, or the woman, who subdues one sin, prevents a thousand of the common evils of life from ever having an existence.
To sum up the character of Amanda. She affords an example of the highest excellency which is to be attained when morality is substituted for religion — when the gifts of nature occupy the place of Christian graces — and when the discipline of the world is preferred to that of the school of Christ. Amanda, indeed, it has been admitted, may be under some influence from religion; but it can only be a partial and a very languid influence. She seems to have imbibed nearly just as much Christianity as is consistent with general conformity to the manners of the age.
"But the age itself," it may be said, "is Christian." Let it be granted that it is not heathen — but does it reach, does it even approach, the standard required by the Gospel? Are the eight hundred people, whom Amanda visits, of the same stamp with those who, in our Savior's time, were designated by the title of "His people;" "the sheep of His fold, who heard His voice?" Are these the "members of His body;" "branches of the living vine, which, by abiding in Him, bring forth much fruit;" the men "who love not the world, nor the things of the world;" "who crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts;" "who watch and pray, that they enter not into temptation;" "who work out their salvation with fear and trembling;" and who "pray always that they may be accounted worthy to escape all those things which are coming on the earth, and to stand before the Son of Man?" Is Amanda herself of this description?
She is, indeed, one of the very best of her own worldly circle; and she unquestionably does great honor to their cause. The votaries of fashion point to her, and say, "See how excellent a thing is our religion — a religion not disgraced by bigotry, not rendered extravagant by fanaticism, and in no respect pushed too far; a religion that is quiet and unobtrusive, cheerful and happy, candid and liberal; honoring God by a cheerful acceptance of His gifts; offending none by an implied censure of their proceedings — but judging charitably of all; accommodating itself to the times in which we live, and allowing a full participation in all the common pursuits and pleasures of the world."
"Amanda," they add, "does great good by her example. She goes everywhere, and all who see her are in love with virtue." The truth rather is, that she contributes to sanction a system which is far more defective even than her own; and that she is approved by many of her acquaintance, not merely nor chiefly for her virtues themselves — but rather on account of her lending the credit of those virtues to the support of the worldly cause. They love her most for that which is her great fault — namely, for never daring to rebuke, or to withstand them; for living so much in their circle; for carrying the spirit of compliance so very far; in short, for hiding the little religion which she possesses; confining it to the hours of worship, and of preparation for the sacrament.
But let not Amanda conceive that I am advising her to become morose or dogmatic, to assume the office of censor of the age, to retire altogether out of society, or to live in it only for the purpose of opposing its customs, correcting its errors, and reproving its vices. I am inviting her not to lay aside any amiable qualities now possessed by her — but to add to these something superior to them all, and to establish them all on a solid basis. I am requesting her not to become ill-bred or fanatical, conceited or censorious; not to lay aside the charities of life — but to be that true Christian, of which she will behold the portrait in the New Testament, and may discover examples in the present world.
God has endowed her with some rare qualities of nature. His Providence has, in certain respects, favored her in education; and His Grace has preserved her from open and presumptuous sin. Let her then devote her ten talents heartily to His service. Let her yield herself up to that Gospel which she is so well calculated to adorn. The returning prodigal is in general far less able to render service to the Christian cause, than one who has ever possessed, like Amanda, an unspotted character in the world. She indeed has to lay the foundation of her faith in deep repentance — but her sins are those of the heart — more than of the life, and those which most escape the censure of mankind. Her Christian influence over others may on this account be the greater; her piety will be viewed with less suspicion than that of one who has a bad character to retrieve.
Some there are, who, though converted into true Christians, continue long both to feel and to exhibit the effects of evil habits indulged during the former period of life. Amanda, having formed better habits, may more easily become exemplary in her conduct; she is therefore fitted for more arduous service.
But there is another mode in which she may be addressed. I have hitherto considered her as possibly a real, though without doubt, a very imperfect Christian. She is, however, one of those, who, while they ought to be judged charitably by others, would do well to be suspicious of themselves.
When the young man in the Gospel came to Christ, and said, "All the commandments have I kept from my youth up — what lack I yet?" He perhaps was an Amanda, exemplary in his own way, and much to be beloved, both for the natural amiableness of his disposition, and for his apparent desire to draw near to Christ. How different was the manner in which our Savior received this youth, from that in which He addressed Himself to the hardened Scribes and Pharisees. Yet the young man was not able to stand the test by which our Savior proceeded to prove whether he was a true disciple: "Sell all you have, and give to the poor, and come and follow Me." "And he went away sorrowful, for he had large possessions." Then said our Savior, "How hardly shall those who are rich, enter into the kingdom of Heaven."
This story is recorded for a warning, not only to the rich — but also to all those, of whatever class, who are unfaithful to Him whom they profess to call their master. "Sell all you have." Part with everything — wealth, interest, pleasures, reputation, and the good opinion of connections, "cut off the right hand, and pluck out the right eye" — surrender, when you are called to the trial, whatever is most dear to you, "and come, and follow Me." "Follow Me through evil report, and good report. Follow not the world, for My disciples are not of the world, even as I am not of the of the world. The world will love its own." "Confess Me," openly before men, for then will "I also confess you before My Father who is in Heaven."
Amanda, it is to be feared, is of the world, a follower of its customs, an encourager of its maxims, a votary of its enjoyments. Her thoughts, as I suspect, dwell not on God, and holiness — but secretly pursue, as their great object, imaginary scenes of worldly happiness. There is reason to apprehend lest the time should come when, being less favored by outward circumstances, she may disappoint the expectations which by many people are now formed concerning her, and when even her present religious strictness will much abate. She is, nevertheless, so amiable, that I could almost deem myself censorious in complaining of her. She is so correct and exemplary, that it appears difficult to bring home to her conduct, a manifest and specific fault. Her exterior, however, is her better part. Let her beware, lest, by the very correctness of her external behavior, she should deceive herself, as well as others. Let her remember, that while "man looks on the outward appearance — the Lord tries the heart."
In a former Paper I described the character of Amanda. I purpose now to present the account of Theodosia, a lady of a very opposite description, whose piety, however, is also questionable, though she maintains some degree of credit for religion within her own immediate circle. If merely to differ widely from Amanda were sufficient evidence of being a Christian, Theodosia might unquestionably lay claim to that appellation, for she has renounced the pomps and vanities of the world. She is much addicted to religious conversation; and is also zealous on the side of what she calls "the truth," a term by which she means to denote those important doctrinal parts of Christianity which Amanda mistakes or overlooks.
Theodosia, however, in her very views of doctrine, runs into some extremes, which shall be specified hereafter; and in her manner of promoting the cause of religion, she is pugnacious and dogmatic, as well as hasty and imprudent. The hostility thus excited against herself, is assumed by her to be altogether against the Gospel, and is dignified with the name of persecution, and is accounted one of her special marks of grace.
Theodosia is rather of a melancholy turn. She appears to be ever in quest of religious comfort — but not able to find it.
She also disappoints you in the great article of Christian humility, for, notwithstanding very profuse acknowledgments of her general vileness, she is apt to justify herself when you come to particulars; and in spite of much seeming renunciation of her own righteousness and strength — she gives to common observers the idea of her being conceited and self-sufficient.
One source of the dislike which many people feel towards Theodosia, a dislike rising even to disgust in some fastidious and rather worldly individuals, is a certain species of phraseology in which she abounds. By the use, however, of this phraseology, she gains credit in another quarter. She thereby deceives some pious — but not very discriminating people; and their favorable sentiments confirm her good opinion of herself. Of her stock of phrases, some offend people of the world, merely because they imply unpopular truths; some, though proper, and scriptural, are worn threadbare by incessant use; others indicate good doctrine — but are bad English; a few are symptomatic of errors to which she leans; and many are objectionable, because they degrade the subject of religion by their coarseness and familiarity. Theodosia is not in the least aware that any part of her phraseology is reprehensible. That these peculiar phrases may excite pious emotions in some hearts, is not to be doubted; but I grievously suspect her of using them merely by rote.
Theodosia, however, deserves to be partly vindicated against certain charges which are brought against her. She is supposed by many people to be a friend to Faith without works. It is true that she gives some ground for this imputation; but she by no means denies the obligation to perform good works, though she is not very zealous on the subject. She is reproached with being an Antinomian, a term which implies that she is altogether an enemy to the moral law of God. The charge is exaggerated. She rightly affirms, that, if we are true believers, we are freed, through Christ, from the condemnation of the law; but she does not venture quite so far as to say that we are released from the obligation of obeying it.
Again, by some she is vehemently condemned, and is even shunned as a heretic, because she is understood to entertain predestinarian principles. These, however, are not held by her in such a sense as, in her own apprehension, to take totally away either the responsibility of man, the guilt of sin, the use of means, or the duty of exertion. I do not think, that her theory of religion is quite so liable to reprehension, as it is by many supposed to be.
But I advance to some other points, which it is important carefully to specify.
Theodosia talks much of "experience" in religion; and loves to hear what she calls "experimental preaching." Now, these terms are susceptible of an enthusiastic, and also of a very sound and sober signification. If Theodosia simply means that we ought to experience a powerful effect on our minds from the preaching of the doctrines of the Gospel, and that she likes to hear this effect described, I perfectly approve of her sentiment. Indeed this is so obvious, that I do not understand how any Christian can deny it. Is it possible to maintain that the emotions of pious gratitude, of love, of hope, of joy, of reverential fear, as well as of penitential sorrow for sin — ought not to be experienced in the soul of the believer, when he hears of the mercies of his Savior?
If, therefore, Theodosia would thus explain herself, she would completely vindicate the use of the term, which is so offensive to fastidious ears. But she runs into some extravagances on the subject in question. She does not speak of her religious experience as implying merely the exercise of the common affections of the mind on religious objects; she mentions it in such a manner, as a little to imply some new and special revelation, some miracle wrought upon her, some communication of a new faculty, some view of even the bodily presence of her Savior, some communion which it is needless to describe, because it is intelligible only to those to whom it is given to possess it.
She leans in this respect to mysticism, as well as to enthusiasm — and I conceive this error to be one cause of that complaint of the lack of comfort which was formerly mentioned. She is in quest of transports and supernatural impressions, which it does not please God to give her. She is not content with that share of quiet consolation which He sends to those who are diligent in the use of the ordinary means of grace, and are conscientiously serving God in that state of life into which it has pleased Him to call them. The exercise of faith is too low an attainment for her. She is impatient for the full assurance of faith. Not content to love Him whom she has not seen, and to believe in Him who is invisible, she talks of seeing, of tasting, of feeling spiritual things, in such a manner as almost to imply the bodily possession of them.
In these descriptions, she sometimes uses, it is true, scriptural terms; but neither in that simply metaphorical, nor in that practical sense, which they bear in the word of God. She also too much inclines to an opinion, that having no power over the religious feelings of her own mind, she has only to wait until it shall please God to pour into it the comforts of His Holy Spirit. Her enemies, therefore, say, that she believes in miraculous influx of the Spirit. They, however, on their part, are apt to be unguarded in their accusations. In opposing, for example, the extravagance which has been just spoken of — some of them have seemed altogether to deny the doctrine of Divine influence.
Another peculiarity often charged on Theodosia is a belief that all real conversions are miraculous. Now, what is the true meaning of the term miraculous? God may properly be said to act in a miraculous manner when He departs from His own ordinary mode of proceeding in the operations either of nature or of grace. When, for example, He caused the Red Sea to open a passage for the Israelites, and when He made the Sun and Moon to stand still in the Valley of Ajalon — He produced an operation of nature which was miraculous. It was miraculous, not because God was the Author of it, for He is the Author equally of the most common natural events — but because the operation was out of the ordinary course of His agency.
Again, when Paul was converted by a special voice from Heaven, he experienced an operation of grace which was out of the common course. When, on the other hand, multitudes were converted to the same faith by the preaching of the Apostles and their successors, although the power was equally from God, they could not be said to experience a conversion which was miraculous. Theodosia, therefore, is inaccurate; she uses inflated language, if she commonly applies the term miraculous to the conversion of men in modern days, unless indeed she can prove that events, similar to that which befell Paul, now frequently take place.
Thus far, therefore, I take part against Theodosia. The controversy, however, on this subject, does not in fact confine itself to the epithet in question; for some at least of her enemies, while they affect to declaim against merely miraculous conversions, are aiming to discredit the doctrine of conversion altogether. A few of them have gone so far as plainly to affirm, that all those terms, "being born again," "renewed," "created anew," "converted," which abound so much in Scripture, refer either to the case of the heathen, or to the mere ceremony of baptism. They speak as if we had nothing to do but to convince ourselves by our reason of the general truths of Christianity, in order to entitle ourselves to the denomination of Christians, and to all the privileges of believers. Thus they lead us to leave out of our consideration the idea both of the Divine agency, and of that great and all important moral change (the effect of this Divine agency) which the Scriptures describe as indispensable.
Theodosia is under another very important misconception on this subject — she too much inclines to consider conversion, or regeneration, as consisting either in a mere change of doctrinal opinions; or in the expression of certain violent impressions, once felt, and of which the remembrance is afterwards carefully cherished, on account of its being esteemed the pledge of Salvation. If, therefore, you would give proof to Theodosia of your being a Christian, you must be able to recount to her, with due particularity of time and place — the history of your conversion. It is not enough that you now possess the scriptural marks of your being a Christian. The present predominance of pure over corrupt affections; the present manifestation of humility, patience, meekness, and self-denial; the present exercise of faith, hope, and charity — are not allowed to determine this question. You are rather called upon to describe, and in some degree after her manner, and in her phraseology — how you entered upon your Christian state.
Now it often pleases God to cause the seed sown in the heart to grow up (as one of the Evangelists expresses it) "one knows not how." God waters it, perhaps from infancy, with the imperceptible and gentle dew of His blessing; and the fruit brought forth by those who have experienced this more gradual kind of regeneration, is quite as rich, and genuine, and abundant, as that which is the result of the most astonishing conversion.
I have been often greatly disappointed in the moral character of those whom Theodosia has assumed to be religious. On the other hand, I am persuaded that there is more true goodness than she supposes in some people who are out of her circle. Her false judgment of character arises from her having imbibed unscriptural opinions as to the essential qualities of a true Christian.
Your readers will by this time have discovered that the fault of Theodosia consists much in pushing things too far. She is not quite so heterodox as she is often said to be — but she discredits the cause of orthodoxy, by presenting to the world a picture, of which some features are exaggerated to extravagance, while others, not belonging to the original, are superadded. Her whole character is marked by culpable vehemence. Nothing is more clear, than that there was a calmness in the piety of our Savior, which is by no means her characteristic. She justifies her general warmth, by dignifying it with the name of zeal, and her eagerness in smaller and more disputable points, by observing that she wishes to suppress no part of the truths of God.
She has a few truly pious and discreet friends, who endeavor to restrain her warmth; but of these she has a low opinion. Some of them she regards as concealing timidity under the plausible titles of prudence and moderation; and others are deemed by her to be a secondary sort of Christians, hopeful and well disposed — but as possessing imperfect light.
There is one mode by which it might be thought that the inferiority of her Christianity to that of some of these more sober friends might be proved to her own conviction. I have been present when she has not commanded her temper quite so well as they — even though the subject which has roused her has seemed to have no connection with religion. I have said to myself, Can she plead her warmth in the cause of Christianity, in justification also of her vehemence in the ordinary affairs of life? I have found, however, that she has a way of bringing in her zeal for the Gospel, as an apology for her vehemence in almost all cases.
Does anyone, for example, attack her character? She remarks that she feels extremely patient under the injury, so far as concerns herself; and is agitated merely because the reputation of one of her religious profession involves the honor of the Gospel. Is her influence counteracted, her recommendation slighted, her judgment questioned, her temporal interest harmed? The severity of her mortification results, as she persuades herself, merely from the consideration of the limitation of her means of usefulness. Is a little portion of her time taken up by an unwelcome intruder? She is out of humor — as she thinks, not in consequence of an ill-regulated temper; but because some most important occupation is impeded.
She is apt, indeed, to discover some pious excuse for all her sins and infirmities. Is her mind too much bent on some favorite object? She discerns, as she thinks, an opening of Providence, which points out the propriety of the pursuit in question. Is she slack in respect to some spiritual duty, and do you urge her to more exertion? She uses the orthodox saying, "that we can do nothing of ourselves," in a manner which, though it may not amount to a direct apology for her religious negligence, serves a little to undermine the necessity, and weaken the force of your exhortation.
Has she been inattentive to some other article of morality? Her end, she trusts, has been good; it has been nothing less than the promotion of the Gospel. Zeal for so great an end may justify some little irregularity in the means — or if the Gospel cannot be distinctly pleaded, God, as she has the privilege of knowing, looks to the heart — and her heart, she is sure, has been bent on doing, in a general way, the thing that is right, though she may not have attended to the particular in question. The particular, too, always happens to have been only a small matter. It was one of those points of "mint, and anise, and cummin," about which it would be pharisaical to be too scrupulous.
But let me not be misunderstood. I do not charge her with gross hypocrisy. We all have our sins and infirmities; and we all have our excuses. I mean to remark that the excuses of Theodosia seem always to be perversely derived from the very orthodoxy of her opinions.
This observation suggests the propriety of adding a few words on the true nature of orthodoxy. Theodosia would be more truly orthodox, were she to mix more practice with her doctrine; and to accustom herself to try the soundness of a sentiment, by its tendency to give discouragement to sin. She seems to consider the acknowledgment of the Christian doctrines, as more important than the possession of that Christian spirit which they are intended to produce. She does not enough perceive, that doctrinal truth, when rightly understood, is itself a practical thing; that it even is not believed, according to the scriptural meaning of that term — unless the belief is manifested to be real, by a correspondent temperament and practice.
This remark shall be exemplified. Theodosia is very sound on the doctrinal point of justification, in respect to which multitudes err, as she but too justly observes, by representing man's own obedience as in part, at least, the ground of his acceptance with God. The ancient Pharisees, as she often remarks, trusted, like many moderns, in their own righteousness, and on this account fell under condemnation; "they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness — did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
Theodosia, therefore, gives the appellation of Pharisees to all who now, according to her own conception, doctrinally err on the point in question; and she builds much on her superiority over them in this respect. Now I apprehend, that the ancient Pharisees were chiefly distinguishable for a very self-righteous temper and spirit; and moreover, that there may be many moderns who possess a humble disposition, though, in some degree, clouded in their views of this article of their faith.
When our Savior related the story of the Pharisee and the Publican, his object evidently was to show the contrariety between the dispositions of the two men — still more even than between their doctrinal opinions. In order, therefore, to judge whether a person more nearly resembles the one or the other, we ought to inquire chiefly, which temper of mind he possesses; for is it not possible that a man may engraft self-preference, and Self-Conceit, which were leading sins of the Pharisee, on the very consciousness of being free from his doctrinal fault? Theodosia, for example, knows something of Amanda; and judging too highly of herself, regards Amanda with rather too little respect. May not Theodosia, therefore, be too much disposed to say, "God! I thank you that I am not as others are, dark, ignorant of Gospel truth, or even as this Amanda!"
Let me not be suspected of overlooking or undervaluing the general tendency of the great doctrine of which I have spoken. It naturally disposes to humility, though it may be so received into the mind as to contribute to the indulgence of self-conceit. There is a knowledge even of sound tenets which "puffs up." Never let that saying of the Apostle be forgotten: "If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know."
It is observable that while Theodosia deems Amanda to be pharisaical — Amanda has learned to give to Theodosia the very same appellation; partly from discovering in her repeated symptoms of spiritual pride; but partly also from observing some of her religious strictnesses, which have been too readily construed into pharisaical scrupulosity.
The disposition of Theodosia to dwell too much on doctrine, evinces itself also in another manner. In speaking of Amanda, it was observed that she preferred the Gospels to the Epistles, and the Sermon on the Mount to any other portion of the Gospels. Theodosia and Amanda may be said to divide the Bible between them. I am persuaded, that the New Testament of the one would open of itself at those parts to which the other has scarcely given any attention; for Theodosia prefers the Epistles to the Gospels, perhaps with the exception of the Epistle of James; and she dwells chiefly on the doctrinal passages in them. Nor is this all — she has a habit of construing practical texts so doctrinally, as often to offend against the plainest rules of interpretation. When she reads, for example, that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, she assumes this saying of Christ to mean, not that we must carry our religious practice farther than the Scribes and Pharisees, and must attain to a higher degree of righteousness than they; but that we must be clothed with the imputed righteousness of Christ. And in perusing the last verses of our Savior's Sermon on the Mount, in which He likens the man who hears His sayings and does them, to one who built his house upon a rock, she evades the important practical caution which is intended to be conveyed to such people as herself — by construing the word Rock to mean Christ Himself, on whose merits alone the believer builds his salvation.
Both Amanda and Theodosia read the prophetic parts of the Old Testament; the former complains of their obscurity — but she admires the beauty of the imagery, and gratifies her taste by the perusal. The latter delights in the difficult parts, for she is occupied in spiritualizing them; and she finds exactly her own doctrinal opinions in many a hard passage which has perplexed the understandings of the learned.
Your readers may by this time be impatient to know to what sect or church Theodosia, who has been thus amply characterized, belongs. I confess that I find some difficulty in answering this question. Strictly speaking, she is neither a Church-woman nor a Dissenter; and yet there is a sense in which she is Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Independent, and Baptist. I mean, that she pursues "the truth," and (I am afraid I must add) pursues a little entertainment at the same time, by attending indifferently either to church, chapel, meeting-house or conventicle, as she deems expedient.
It is clear, however, that she is not a Papist, since she most freely uses her Protestant right of exercising her own judgment on the doctrines of her teachers. She is quick to discern the unsoundness of a sermon. The preacher who, while he re-asserts her tenets, can most amuse her imagination, is the object of her preference. She loves, I admit, to have her mind vehemently affected — but no great practical good seems to result from these impressions. She likes to be . . .
alarmed by tremendous threatenings,
transported with ecstatic joys,
entertained also by familiar anecdotes, and
surprised by new modes of spiritualizing and allegorizing the Scriptures.
She comes, indeed, in the way of much practical, animated, and sound divinity; but, though professing herself a Church-woman, she approves not of the sobriety which is generally thought to befit our pulpits; and she has an astonishing faculty of separating doctrine from practice — however closely joined by the preacher. She receives, and even contends for the one — but almost dismisses the other from her recollection.
She is not sufficiently aware of the proneness of man to self-conceit, and of the danger lest the true Gospel of Christ should ultimately be discredited and hindered through the competition of a multitude of superficial and self-appointed instructors.
But I cannot conclude my account of Theodosia without presenting the reader with a short history of her life. She was born of parents who were rich, though of middling rank; and her education, in no respect very good, was shamefully defective in point of religion. Having been baptized in her infancy, she was confirmed at the usual age, almost without even a superficial examination of her proficiency in religious knowledge, and soon afterwards she received the sacrament. On these grounds alone she was taught to consider herself a very good and sufficient Christian — unless, indeed, some enormous crime should be perpetrated by her. She was plunged into the vanities of the world; she was accustomed, after the example of her parents, continually to take the name of God in vain in her ordinary discourse; not, indeed, with what is deemed intentional profaneness — but by that light and irreverent mention of the name of the Supreme Being, against which, though so common among those who are not without religion, the Third Commandment is pointedly and expressly leveled.
She never looked into a Bible; she indulged much vanity; she despised serious piety in her heart, and was most grossly ignorant of many of the leading doctrines of Christianity. It is true, that she went once in a week to church, and did not formally disbelieve the Scriptures. But she owed her faith in them, if faith it may be called, to her ignorance of their contents; for while she admitted their general truth, her mind accorded scarcely with one individual doctrine or precept which they contain; yet though her right to the honorable appellation of a Christian, rested on such slight foundations, neither her parents, nor her friends, I repeat it, infused into her any doubt of her being a Christian.
Theodosia being visited by a religious friend during a state of severe illness, she became superficially acquainted with many great doctrines of Christianity, which had before escaped her observation. She experienced at this season extreme distress of mind; for she had a strong expectation of dying, and sometimes deemed herself on the brink of everlasting destruction. On her recovery, being more eager to obtain spiritual comfort than to make her calling and election sure — she was inclined to pacify her conscience, without laying the foundation of deep repentance, and without much attending to the necessity and nature of that change in the dispositions of the heart, which the Scriptures represent as necessary to the true Christian.
She, indeed, partly adopted the views of some of the religious people among whom she fell, people whose object seems to have been to multiply converts to a party, and to a scheme of doctrine — rather than to establish them in every good word and work. She now began to live in this circle.
Theodosia, during the period when she was acquiring her doctrinal knowledge, had the appearance of being extremely humble — a circumstance which contributed to the establishment of her religious credit, even with some discerning people. She soon, however, began to feel much delight in the idea of her superior knowledge; and having always had some turn both to disputation and self-conceit — she now made use of the doctrines of religion as her means of indulging freely her old dispositions.
Not that Theodosia is to be regarded as a mere hypocrite. She deceives herself much more than other people. I do not even affirm, that she has in no respect benefitted by her change — any state is preferable to that of total indifference to religion. Moreover, I admit that she does not now take in vain the name of God as heretofore. She has a little enlarged her alms-giving. She subscribes towards the Propagation of the Gospel among the heathen; and when she attends at a charity sermon, she now drops half-a-guinea into the plate instead of her former shilling or half-crown. She has separated herself from a number of dissipated friends, and she seems to have renounced the more fashionable kind of life forever.
I should have deemed the last-mentioned change a far better evidence of her piety, if she had possessed much natural taste for the society and employments which she has abandoned. Amanda once hinted to me, that Theodosia never was remarkably received among the higher circles; and added, that she remembers to have been present in a select company when Theodosia seemed to experience much mortification, under the consciousness of being unable to bear her part in the conversation. I have heard, on the other hand, that when the new convert was thought to be passing over to the people whom she has since joined, she experienced a degree of attention and respect, as well as of Christian kindness, which must have been very gratifying to one not accustomed to find herself the object of peculiar notice.
Motives, therefore, of a nature not clearly religious — might lead her to cross over to a new party; to which if we suppose her to be joined, it is obvious that she would naturally adopt some of their strictnesses. The habit which we all have of accommodating our practice to that of those by whom we are surrounded, together with the disposition which we feel to act up to the general expectations which are formed concerning us — seem to me to be very nearly sufficient to account for as much improvement in Theodosia as I can clearly perceive to have taken place.
I would, however, merely suggest my doubts respecting her character; and would do it with a view of urging her to some very serious self-examination. I admit, indeed, that there are not only strong and thriving Christians — but such as are less vigorous and flourishing. I allow it to be possible to build on the right foundation, though the superstructure may not be so spacious or so lofty as were to be wished. I admit that the Scripture speaks even of those who are to be saved as by fire.
But let Theodosia seriously consider that without holiness no man shall see the Lord; that if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; that if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. Then let her look into her conduct; and still more, let her scrutinize her heart. The tree is to be known by its fruits — let her carefully examine whether the fruits of the Spirit are to be recognized in her; and let her suspect that the marks and evidences, on which she places her chief reliance, may be little or nothing more than the result of party spirit, of a regard for her character among her religious friends, or with her favorite minister.
I understand that the stricter part of her new acquaintances entertain the same apprehensions of the unsoundness of her principles which I have ventured to express; and are becoming less and less cordial in their attachment to her. A few of the more faithful and discerning among the body, having found some well-intentioned hints offered by them to be not very kindly or patiently received, and to be construed into indications of their own defect of light, or lack of grace, are now retiring silently, but with regret — and are giving place either to more submissive and accommodating people, or to those who largely participate in her religious errors.
Theodosia nevertheless assumes her present friends to be a most select body. She even deems them to be of the highest order of Christians — and their views of doctrine, to be orthodoxy itself. It is, however, rumored, that some small doctrinal, and chiefly philosophical differences, as well as a few other circumstances, are beginning to produce private feuds and subdivisions even in this little set. Christian unity and charity seem to be little understood among them. Zeal, in their eyes, is set at variance with love; and a few important tenets, in some degree perverted and urged in a bad spirit, are put for Christianity itself.
These people, it is true, have escaped from the kind of corruption which is most general in our days; but they have not been on their guard against the dangers impending from another quarter. They have not been aware that amidst . . .
much freedom from dissipation,
much separation from indiscriminate society,
much hearing of sermons,
and much zeal for doctrines —
that there may exist . . .
the love of disputation,
a habit of pronouncing rashly on the spiritual state of others,
a disdain of order,
disrespect for civil and ecclesiastical superiors,
religious vanity and egotism,
pride, and self-conceit.
In short, that a whole class of sins may be practiced by us; and our religious credit be, nevertheless, maintained in our own estimation, and in our own little world.
Eusebia is one of those people in whom has been fulfilled that promise of the Scripture, "Train up a child in the way that he should go — and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Both her father and mother were religious. The plan, therefore, of education pursued by the one was in no degree counteracted by the other. She was the child of many prayers. In her infant baptism she was devoted to God with sincerity and seriousness; and long before she had learned to offer her own infant supplications, many an earnest address had been presented to Heaven on her behalf. She was early inured to a discipline which was strict, but not severe. It was such as was found sufficient to enforce prompt and uniform obedience to parental authority; and this authority was often interposed without an explanation of all the reasons for the exertion of it.
Habits were thus formed in childhood, which greatly facilitated a course of right practice in maturer years. Temperance, self-denial, regularity, punctuality, bodily as well as mental industry — were enforced upon her nearly in the same manner in which they are insisted on by some correct and considerate parents of a worldly cast. Eusebia, in this respect, had all the advantages of Amanda, whose character, and also that of Theodosia, will now come again under review.
Eusebia and Amanda, in their youth, had many similar occupations, and some of the same masters. In the case, however, of the former, a greater share of attention was paid to useful objects. In point of natural talents, as well as rank in life — they were nearly equal, and in both were far above mediocrity. But while the imagination of the one was more highly cultivated, or, as I may quite as properly say, was more amply indulged — the reasoning powers of the other were much more improved. The mind of Eusebia was, on the whole, far better furnished — and this advantage arose chiefly from the circumstance of her having dedicated to mental pursuits a large portion of those numerous hours which Amanda bestowed on music, though without the plausible plea of a strong natural taste for it.
But it may be useful to specify more particularly their comparative attainments. In music, it has been already intimated, that Amanda might claim a superiority. She was also better acquainted with our dramatic writers and poets. She had been led, by eager curiosity, to run over some translations from Greek and Roman authors, of which Eusebia had only been permitted to hear select parts read by her father, who was continually pointing out as he proceeded, the difference between Heathen and Christian greatness and virtue. In drawing, in botany, in natural history, and natural philosophy — they were nearly equal. Both attained to great excellence in the art of reading. Eusebia, however, read with peculiar simplicity, as well as good taste, and with remarkable distinctness. Her hand-writing, for I do not disdain to mention so minute a circumstance, was superior to that of Amanda; and her proficiency in arithmetic much greater. Though less generally conversant with the works of our poets, she had committed to memory more pieces of moral and religious poetry, and could repeat almost every devout and poetic hymn in our language. She had, on the whole, applied herself to the study of prose more than Amanda; and it is worthy of remark, that she had so carefully cultivated clearness and correctness of style, as to be able at a very early age to write any letter of importance which her parents might confide to her.
In general history, it is difficult to say which had the advantage. Eusebia, however, was far more intimately acquainted with the events of several most important periods. She was well versed, for example, in the history of the Reformation, and in the lives of the principal Reformers. She had so much knowledge of the times of the Puritans, as to have acquired a very just idea of the merits of the two contending parties. I remember to have heard that her father, from whom she derived much of her information on this subject, once very carefully pointed out to her some facts related in "Richard Baxter's Life and Times," and then compared them with the unfair account which Hume gives of the same transactions: and I know that he usually endeavored to correct the sentiments which he gained from Baxter, by means of Rapin, Clarendon, and Burnet.
As to Theodosia, she might have been guarded against many of her errors, by a careful observation of those extravagancies, which in the end disgraced the cause of the Puritans, a description of people whom she, in some degree, resembles. But she is little acquainted with this interesting part of English history; and she seems never to have reflected, that it probably pleased God to permit religion, in that instance, to be disgraced, for the very purpose of affording a lesson of caution and instruction to Christians of succeeding ages. Theodosia, though she has abundant time, neglects general reading, and is, indeed, indisposed to mental industry.
But the great point in which Eusebia excels, is her knowledge of the Scriptures, and of good books of divinity. Theodosia is well read in the doctrinal passages of the Bible; and Amanda says that she can comprehend only the practical parts of it. Eusebia, however, has been taught to love both — but as her manner of reading and interpreting the Bible will be afterwards explained, no farther mention shall now be made of this important subject.
As for other religious books, Amanda is acquainted with the "Whole Duty of Man," "Nelson's Feasts and Fasts," with some sermons of Blair, and a few of Tillotson — such is the catalogue of her religious library. Theodosia, on the other hand, has looked into not one of these volumes: her little shelf is exclusively occupied by the works of a few favorite authors, either living or not long since dead, by whose creed she guides herself. But Eusebia has at once improved her taste, increased her religious knowledge, cherished her devout affections, and enlarged her charity, by the perusal of religious books published by men of the first eminence, and of somewhat different parties. Guided and assisted by her discerning parents, she has endeavored to extract what is good from all. She has profited by Hooker, and Barrow, and Hall, and Hopkins, and Jeremy Taylor, and Beveridge, as well as by John Owen and Richard Baxter. She is familiar with the works of some old and devout French authors; and is also well acquainted with the writings of later ages — though too many of those writings err, as her parents have often told her, either on the one side, by endeavoring to correct rather than to convert; or on the other, by aiming to convert to a scheme of doctrine, or to some favorite point of orthodoxy, rather than to universal piety and holiness.
I proceed to speak more particularly of the means which were used by the parents of Eusebia to render her truly pious. The effect produced by their admonitions was, for a time, so small as to be a source of some uneasiness to them; and it is rather to the repetition of their exhortations than to any one particular effort, that, under the Divine blessing, the impressions at last made upon Eusebia are to be traced. Their instruction was conveyed, not so much by formal lessons of religion, as by the medium of pious observations seasonably introduced, and coming warm from the heart.
Did a young companion die? The brevity and uncertainty of life were noticed. Was the deceased understood to have shown signs of a devout regard to God, and of humble trust in a Savior? The circumstances which led to the comfortable supposition were feelingly developed and discussed. Did any person of a contrary character die? Anxiety and dread on the subject of the future destination of such an one were indicated. No mention at least was made of a "happy release;" no expressions were heard which could tend to efface that clear doctrine of Scripture, that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment; and only the righteous into life eternal.
Was some acquaintance afflicted with temporal calamity, with the loss of friends, with sickness, or with unexpected poverty? However strong might be the sympathy expressed, these events were not treated as the worst of all possible evils. Eusebia was reminded, that to be impenitent, as many are rendered by prosperity — is to be a far greater object of pity; and that "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, may work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Did anyone, by entering into the married state, become the subject of general congratulation, because the acquisition of fortune was great, and the worldly prospects were alluring — and were the parties — thus pronounced happy — though clearly irreligious? Eusebia was taught, by repeated admonitions, to understand that "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses;" and that no state can properly be deemed happy, without the blessing of God.
But it is not intended fully to relate in what manner the parents of Eusebia conveyed all their religious instruction. The chief object of these observations is briefly to show that the lessons taught in the church, or inculcated on solemn occasions at home, were not contradicted, as they too often were in the case of Amanda, by the familiar language of the drawing-room. But they were, on the contrary, receiving continual confirmation from the lips of two pious parents, intent on the edification of their offspring.
It would be difficult to name the period when Eusebia first clearly manifested a pious spirit. She, however, after a time, gave indications of a tender and awakened conscience, which her parents considered as proceeding from the influence of the Holy Spirit, and as an answer to their persevering supplications for a Divine blessing on their instructions. She acquired a more and more quick perception of the nature and of the evil of sin. She was taught to discern it in herself, before it broke out into open acts. She saw it in the secret motions of her heart; and her growing sense of it was accompanied (as it obviously was likely to be) with an increasing persuasion of the corruption of her own nature, and of the general predominance of moral evil in the world.
The law of God, not any of those laws of man which are often substituted in the place of it — was understood by her to be her rule; and she viewed it in the full extent of its requisitions. She saw that it enjoined obedience in every thought, word, and deed — an obedience resulting from the internal principle of unceasing love to God and her fellow-creatures; and that every transgression of that law was sin. Not an evil thought, therefore, did she perceive in herself — and she became very quick in perceiving them — not a duty did she neglect — and she took a very comprehensive view of her duties — without being conscious that she was guilty, and accounting herself justly punishable for the transgression.
If I were desired to name the great practical difference between Eusebia and Amanda, and also indeed between her and Theodosia, I would take it to be this: Eusebia makes no excuses for her sins. She pleads . . .
not the propensity of her nature,
nor the force of temptation,
nor the seduction of evil example,
nor any philosophical necessity under which she is placed,
nor the general custom of others;
no, nor the smallness of the particular fault into which she has fallen.
She does not plead that the Gospel has repealed the Law, and has therefore mitigated the sinfulness of each transgression. The Gospel, according to her view, has "established the Law," and has re-affirmed its reasonableness, its excellency, and its strictness. The Gospel has even shown the condemning power of the Law with additional clearness; for "the Law," as she has learned even from the Gospel, is "holy, and just, and good;" "by the Law is the knowledge of sin;" and it is the acknowledged goodness of the Law which makes her feel the justice of that sentence which it pronounces against her.
Amanda, on the contrary, seems to think that the original Law of God has been abrogated by the Gospel; and that the Gospel is the publication of a new and milder law, which, as she comforts herself, she tolerably well obeys. She has a confused idea, that by fulfilling her evangelical duties, of which she admits that faith in Christ is one — she shall through Christ be justified. She thus leans to the doctrine of Justification by Works, and runs counter to one of the articles of that Church to which she professes implicit obedience. By this train of her ideas, she is led to be continually forming to herself a low standard of right and wrong, and to be excusing herself from the performance of all difficult duties. Amanda's aim is much lower than that of Eusebia. She is also not half so great a sinner in her own eyes; and having the consciousness of few sins, I fear she has no deep humility.
Theodosia, on the other hand, perceives the doctrinal errors of Amanda — and yet continues to elude, by a number of mischievous sentiments, the force of that orthodox tenet of Justification by Faith, for which she is contentious. For though she confesses her sins in general, and will even use terms more coarse than Eusebia thinks it proper to employ — she is disposed to stand up for her own honor in each particular; and she a little bends her doctrine, as well as that of human impotency, to the purpose of apologizing for sin, or at least of excusing indolence.
But Eusebia, whether addressing God or man, leans not to the side of justification. She defends no iniquity — she pleads for no infirmity. Hers is that truly humbled heart which suspects evil though it should not be clearly perceived by others, and is therefore thankful even for the reproof that may not plainly be deserved. Hers is that self-condemning conscience, which is continually anticipating every just accusation.
It may, perhaps, be thought by some, that this temper of Eusebia must be very uncomfortable to herself, and must give to her whole character an air of sorrow and despondency — that she must be a woman whose countenance is sad, whose looks are downcast, and whose tone of voice is melancholy. In answer, I have to observe, that her habit of self-condemnation is corrected by another principle of her religion, which is no less powerfully operative. She both trusts and cheerfully hopes, in the rich and unmerited mercies of a Savior. That sensibility of conscience, which the objection supposes to be an almost insupportable burden, becomes in her the very ground for believing that she really is a partaker in the benefits of her Redeemer's death, and an heir of eternal glory. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
There are certain seeming paradoxes in religion, which none but the pious well understand. That a deep consciousness of sin is the foundation of a true and lively hope, of a hope which is far more exalted than that which the self-righteous feel, is one of these paradoxes.
Theodosia is apt to err by separating the two feelings which have been described. She esteems a Christian to be a person who is at one time tormented by a gloomy fear — and then overwhelmed by a flood of joy breaking in upon the soul. Christian conversion consists, according to her views, first in "a certain law work," as she uncouthly expresses herself, and in this stage of religious experience, the convicted sinner, as she expects, will be almost distracted by despair. After passing a certain time in the severe school of the Law — a religion of little else than comforts and privileges, as she supposes, is enjoyed; though perhaps interrupted by occasional relapses into the old state of wretchedness and dismay.
There can be little doubt that many good people have gone through these successive stages; and that those in particular, who have lacked a religious education, are apt to fall into much terror and perplexity while entering on a religious course. I cannot however learn that there has been any period of Eusebia's life in which she has undergone this precise process. The sense of her own sinfulness, and of God's mercy through a Savior — have grown up together. Her parents, her minister, her religious books, and may it not be added, her Bible — have never taught the one truth without almost immediately adverting to the other; and a quick sensibility in both points is undoubtedly best learned by always uniting them together.
It may be inferred from some of the preceding observations, that in the religion of Eusebia — a Savior is a very prominent figure. Hers is not a deistical Christianity. She is carried far from Deism, as well as from Socinianism, and even from practical Arianism — by the very turn of her religious feelings and desires; and by the sense of her great need of a most merciful and an Almighty Redeemer.
The passages, therefore, of Scripture, which seem as if they labored for terms sufficient to describe the transcendent dignity of Jesus Christ, are acceptable to her, and are interpreted in their natural and simple sense, although she acknowledges that this sense involves difficulties which surpass the powers of her understanding. She applies the doctrine of a Savior to devout and practical purposes, and forbears from speculating upon it, so as to attempt to be wise beyond what is written. In prayer she draws near to the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ; and she feels both encouraged and abased by the thought of approaching the Almighty through a Mediator. She thus worships God aright — and she is accepted because she is a humble and true worshiper. She pleads before Him, the Sacrifice of her Redeemer. She is not afraid to search into all the errors of her life, nor to scrutinize the evil motions of her heart, because she knows that she shall thus nourish a spirit of self-abasement and contrition; and that to the possessor of this spirit belong the consolations of the Gospel.
She sinks not under the view of her own sinfulness — because she looks also to that "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." She stands astonished at the unspeakable goodness of God in the gift of His Son. She admires the great condescension of Christ in taking upon Him our mortal nature. She loves to contemplate His Life, the scene of His Death, and the event of His Resurrection. She follows him with the eye of Faith to the right hand of God. She believes that He will come to be our Judge; and that unto those who look for Him, He will appear the second time unto Salvation.
Upon all these doctrines Amanda is cold. She denies none of them; but her practical unbelief in some degree appears from her dread of examining herself with any considerable strictness. She once said to Eusebia, whom she knows but slightly, "If I were to be as strict in judging myself as you are — I could never endure the sight of my own picture."
There is another part of the religious faith of Eusebia which must be described — that which relates to the Holy Spirit. Eusebia on this point follows the Scriptures with remarkable simplicity. She refers to the influence of the Divine Spirit on her mind — every pious feeling which she has known, and every religious work which she has performed — while she considers all her sins to be her own. This also is a doctrine which at the same time humbles and encourages her.
It humbles her, by suggesting on every occasion, that language of the Apostle, "By the Grace of God, I am what I am!" It encourages her, by inspiring the comfortable persuasion, that while she is working out her own salvation with fear and trembling — God works in her both to will and to do of His good pleasure. However arduous, therefore, may be her Christian warfare, however weak her nature, however frequent even her failures in time past, she cherishes the hope that by the aid of Omnipotence, she shall finally prevail. She expects to make a progress in Religion only in the way of dependence on the Divine aid. She is not more earnest in desiring the pardon of her sins through Jesus Christ, than she is fervent in imploring Grace, through the same Savior, to purify her heart, and make her fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.
That doctrine of Grace which the Scriptures teach, in order that it may be practically employed for these simple and pious purposes, has been made the peculiar topic of religious controversy in the world, and has served remarkably to embitter many Christians against each other. Strange and pernicious abuse! How melancholy is the reflection that men, instead of endeavoring to "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," should be occupied in turning this doctrine of Divine help (a doctrine so mercifully revealed) to the purposes of philosophical quarrel, jealous suspicion, and angry disputation. One party having combined the Doctrine of Grace with that of Predestination and Final Perseverance — has been understood by its adversaries practically to deny the voluntary agency of man, and the unequivocal reality of those general offers of the Gospel which are made in Scripture; while the other party, having strenuously contended for the Freedom of the human Will, has been thought to invade the doctrine of a Divine Providence, and to refer to ourselves, rather than to God, the first and determining step in our salvation.
Both parties, indeed, have endeavored to give a philosophical perfection to their system, by the help of many subtleties of their own, and of abundant quotations from Scripture — a nearly equal number of texts having been pressed into each service. Both, however, have been apt to construe their Bible, not in that popular, unlearned, and practical manner in which it is unquestionably written — but as if delivering itself with a precise and philosophical precision — and as if the Ministers of Christianity could be well employed in continually discussing those high mysterious questions "Of Providence, foreknowledge, will and fate, Fixed fate, free-will, fore-knowledge absolute" — questions which have ever amused the imagination, divided the judgment, and baffled the understanding of the philosophical world.
But this is not all. Many have been forward to deem those people clouded in their views, and defective in their faith — who, piously withdrawing from barren and unprofitable controversy, have labored to make use of the Doctrine of Grace, rather than very precisely to define it; thus giving all diligence to make their calling and election sure, and resting on the assured mercy and unquestionable faithfulness of that God who has declared, that He desires not the death of the sinner — but that all should come to repentance.
Theodosia has little respect for Eusebia, on account of her seeming to be so very ignorant on these subjects.
Eusebia on the other hand, laments to see how much the temper of Theodosia is hurt, and her thoughts and endeavors called away from more profitable employments — by her taste for theological debates.
Amanda's good humor undoubtedly has never been interrupted by this theological combat. She lives in a circle where the doctrine of Divine Grace is itself little known, and in some danger of being despised. She herself, indeed, seems scarcely to believe the doctrine. It is true, that if you remind her of it, she readily admits it; and that she would be much surprised if no mention were made of it on Sunday from the pulpit. But I fear that practically she trusts in her own powers; and that her prayers are not, like those of Eusebia, the expressions of a heart earnest in imploring Divine help against temptations, direction in difficulties, and instruction in all righteousness — but are rather the execution of a formal customary duty. It was before intimated that her lack of genuine faith in the Atonement of Christ, was indicated by her apparent aversion to take a full view of her sinfulness. Her lack of cordial belief in the efficacy and all-sufficiency of Divine Grace, manifests itself by an unwillingness to enter into the full consideration of her Christian duties. When these are clearly set before her, she draws back from the subject, and says that you are requiring of her more than it is possible for human nature to perform. She does not understand the meaning and force of those expressions, "My grace is sufficient for you — My strength is made perfect in weakness — with men it is impossible — but with God all things are possible."
Two doctrines of religion, in which Eusebia very practically believes, have been mentioned — the Atonement of her Savior, and the influence of the Divine Spirit. These, however, though they connect themselves with every part of her faith — do not exclusively occupy her attention. In few circumstances does she differ more from Theodosia, than in perceiving the value of many truths which have not acquired importance by being made the subjects of controversy. She most highly values, for example, the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and conceives, that powerfully to feel all the momentous points contained and implied in them, is the mark of a very advanced Christian.
Eusebia is of opinion that a main difficulty in religion consists in really and heartily believing common and admitted truths. She is afraid of not giving sufficient credit to the doctrine of a life to come, and of a Day of Judgment when God "shall judge every man according to his works;" and "the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal." These are truths, the lively impression of which is deemed by her to be of unspeakable importance; and she doubts not, that if we were more deeply penetrated by them, the serious state of mind which they would produce, would naturally lead to no inconsiderable degree of orthodoxy on other points.
Eternity, therefore, is the great subject on which she dwells. Her prayer to God is, not so much that she may unravel the difficulties of theological science — as that she may feel the infinite importance of eternal things; not so much that she may comprehend what will be our condition during the period between death and the Day of Judgment; or, what the kind of bodies, with which we shall arise; as "that the eyes of her understanding may be enlightened to know" how great "is the hope of her calling, and what are the riches of the glory of her inheritance among the saints;" not so much that she may understand the nature of the mysterious union of "God and Man in one Christ," as that she may know something of "the height and depth and length and breadth of that Love of God," in Christ Jesus, "which surpasses knowledge." Devout meditation on simple and admitted truths, forms one prominent characteristic of Eusebia.
Her mind also dwells with satisfaction on every truth, even of natural religion. She adores a Creator, as well as trusts in a Redeemer — and she therefore loves to trace the wisdom of God as manifested in His works. She lately read, with satisfaction, a popular book on Natural Theology, and judged it to be important, though it merely proved the existence of a God, and adverted to no other moral attribute of the Deity than His benevolence. Her own mind supplied reflections on His Holiness, and on the necessity of approaching Him through a Mediator.
Theodosia refuses to read any work which treats of morals or of merely natural religion. Amanda thinks that every treatise on such good topics must be good. Eusebia, regarding man as an inhabitant of this world, as well as of a world to come — carefully cultivates the whole science of human duty.
I have thus given a general view of the education and of the faith of Eusebia. I propose in the next paper to describe the manner in which she interprets the Scriptures, and to point out the difference between her and Amanda, as well as between her and Theodosia, in this important particular.
Eusebia's Study of the Bible
I propose now to describe the manner in which Eusebia is accustomed to interpret Scripture. It has pleased God to reveal to us His will, through the medium of His Word; but we are apt to defeat the ends of revelation, by giving erroneous interpretations to the Book of God. How endless are the varieties of opinions even among those who profess to derive their religious sentiments from this source! Is then the Bible vague in its expression, as unbelievers, reasoning from the multitude of our controversies, are ready to assert? Or is it, as the Papists say, so obscure and mysterious, that only the ministers of religion ought to presume that they can explain it?
I have already intimated that Eusebia understands her Bible in the popular and unlearned sense. She considers it as treating, not of curious or abstruse questions which exercise the faculties of a few highly educated ones — but of religious truths, which demand the attention of all; and as aiming to give a warm impression of these truths, by sometimes adopting a seemingly negligent boldness of style, rather than as speaking with an uniformity of verbal precision. She applies to the Scriptures the same rules of interpretation which she would use in the case of another book. She marks the circumstances under which each part was written, attends to the context, frequently compares one passage with another, which the extent of her biblical knowledge makes it easy for her to do; and adding earnest prayer for the Divine assistance, she experiences increasing edification and pleasure, and less and less difficulty in the perusal of Scripture.
Theodosia misunderstands her Bible by aiming to be too deep. She deems it a "sealed" book to those who are not accustomed to spiritualize every part of it; and, being in quest of the less obvious sense, she frequently loses the benefit of a plain practical precept, of which she stands in need.
She views, for example, the parable of the good Samaritan only in the light of a doctrinal illustration of the subject of Redemption. He who has fallen among thieves — is assumed to be human nature, or man in general. The Levite is the Law, which cannot save us; the good Samaritan is our Savior. She is perplexed to know what is meant by the priest, who, as well as the Levite, passes by the other way; and on the subject of the two pence she is at some loss. When I reflect how minute is her system of interpretation, I wonder that she is not staggered at observing that the man who has fallen among thieves is said to be only "half dead;" a very unsound term, as she must admit, when applied to human nature. She does not consider that the parable is related by Christ in answer to a Jew, who was apt to hate men of another sect, and asked "Who is my neighbor?" and that it was meant to correct this practical error.
Theodosia, in like manner, too much confines her charity to people of exactly her own persuasion; and the passage, therefore, if justly interpreted, might contribute to correct in her this fault. I mean not to deny that our Savior may, in some general manner, be likened to the good Samaritan. My objection is to Theodosia's adopting this as the only true mode of interpretation, and to her regarding the passage as a clear testimony in favor of the chief doctrines of Christianity. The Scriptures, if all people are allowed to interpret them on this plan — may have a thousand different significations, and may be made to convey any meaning which a fertile imagination is able to deduce from them.
Amanda errs after a very different manner. Her complaint of not being able to comprehend the doctrinal parts of the New Testament, arises from her taking too little interest in them, and from a general defect of piety. She mistakes even the practical passages. Her favorite Sermon on the Mount is far more strict than she supposes it to be; and will never be well interpreted by her, until her standard of practice is greatly raised. With her present views, it is impossible, for instance, that she should understand what it is to "hunger and thirst after righteousness," to "enter in at the straight gate," to "cut off the right hand, and pluck out the right eye." Neither can she have an adequate conception of that purity of heart, to which is annexed the promise of "seeing God," or be aiming to be "perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect."
The advantage which Eusebia possesses in the interpretation of Scripture, is to be traced to more fervent piety, to greater simplicity, and to a fuller acquaintance with the Bible — rather than to superior powers of understanding.
She has been taught, that "the meek will He guide in judgment; the meek will He teach his way." She possesses, it is true, more than ordinary talents — but these, though useful, are by no means to be considered as necessary for the object in question. She also possesses some natural wit — but for this endowment she has no use when she reads the Bible.
Theodosia summons up her wit — for the very occasion on which Eusebia dismisses it. There is a quaint humor in her construction of dark texts of the Old Testament, which extremely diverts the imagination of those who listen to her; and does not even allow the muscles of their face to be perfectly at rest. If Amanda should hear some of these ludicrous interpretations, and should talk of them among her circle — there would unquestionably be no bounds to the general laughter. And the evil might be the more serious, inasmuch as the truths deduced are often as solemn and important, as the mode of inferring them from the text is extravagant and ridiculous.
There is another difference in Eusebia's mode of interpreting Scripture, which must be explained. Eusebia first considers the meaning of each passage as applied to those to whom it was immediately addressed. She therefore takes into her contemplation the circumstances of ancient times — and then deduces the instruction applicable to herself.
Theodosia proceeds in a shorter manner — she makes no allowance whatever for difference of times. Amanda is in the opposite extreme — she considers the Epistles as so exclusively written to the ancient churches, that they can be of little or no use to us.
Theodosia once fell into the company of Amanda, whose character she very badly understands, and whom she considers as a perfect heathen. Being desirous of awakening her to some sense of her danger — she took occasion to speak of the sad state of the unconverted, and to represent how strongly their wickedness was described in the Word of Truth. They were "foolish," she observed, "disobedient, deceived" — here Amanda suspected that she herself was alluded to, "serving divers lusts and pleasures" — she now doubted whether she were the object of the remark, "living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another." Amanda upon this, felt extremely comforted; for she was sure that she was not living in malice and envy, hateful and hating her fellow-creatures; and she proceeded to infer, that, not being of the number of the unconverted, she must of course be a true Christian.
Theodosia, not finding Amanda's conscience to be sufficiently alarmed, conceived it necessary to call a still stronger quotation to her aid. She stumbled on that passage of the Epistle to the Romans, in which it is said respecting the wickedness of those more violent days, "their feet are swift to shed blood." Amanda was now most satisfactorily persuaded that neither she nor any of her friends were intended to be reflected on — and she suspected that the remark was pointed at the French!
I think that I know exactly how Eusebia, half of whose difficulties, in some circles, consists in rectifying misconception produced by the vehemence of Theodosia — would have turned the discourse, had she been present. She would have remarked that the Scriptures often enumerate many sins as characterizing the wicked, without intending to charge each sin upon them all; and that in describing a sinful state, they may be supposed, in some respects, to present an exact picture, rather of the ancient than of the modern sinner. The principles from which they severally act, she would, however, affirm to be the same; and that while the conduct of the latter from being less openly flagitious, might not admit of being characterized in terms equally strong with that of the former — it might notwithstanding be attended with a much larger portion of guilt. She would have shown that in our days, the general standard of morals having been raised (an advantage which we owe to Christianity), some of those, particularly in the upper ranks, whom the Scripture would consider as the wicked — are rendered decent in their manners, by mere regard to character and personal interest.
She would have proceeded to observe, that women, in particular, ought to take great care lest they should be deceived through this change of circumstances; and she would have insisted that the question which they ought to ask themselves, is not, whether they equal in vice the ancient heathen — but whether they resemble in true piety and virtue, those whom alone the apostles considered as Christians.
I do not say that Eusebia would have entered into all these observations with the same particularity, if the individual whom she had addressed had been one of the lowest class. People of this description are not apt to be equally offended and misled, even though their sins should happen to be unintentionally over-stated; and indeed when they are extremely irreligious, they do nearly resemble the ancient heathens. She would also have spared part of her remarks, if she had been conversing with any person of the higher order, who was a notorious evil liver. I mean only to say, that although she is a very faithful interpreter of Scripture, she has a reasonable and scriptural mode of making an application of it to present characters.
Her idea is, that the faithfulness of a minister does not consist in preferring, as Theodosia does, general and unmeaning charges of guilt against all people — but rather in endeavoring to present to every one, the picture of his own corruption.
Eusebia considers those passages of the New Testament, which speak of the persecution to which Christians were to be exposed, as by no means applicable to modern times, in their original strength. The Gospel being now generally professed, principles of toleration having gained ground, and an abundantly better security against injuries being enjoyed under our happy constitution than was afforded by the heathen governments — it cannot, as she conceives, be fairly affirmed that Christians are now generally persecuted.
Religious indifference, as she suspects, is the great evil of the present day. It is true, indeed, that she herself is complained of, and occasionally derided, by many people as far too strict; and that she fights manfully against the world, under the banner of her Savior; but she does not presume to give to the little trials which she encounters the same appellations which would be proper in describing the conflict of the Apostles. She remembers that they "endured cruel mockings and scourgings, and bonds and imprisonments," and died martyrs to the faith.
Theodosia, on the other hand, considers the texts which speak of persecution to be as applicable to herself as to Paul; and hence she is encouraged in her habit of courting opposition — an opposition which she excites by her extravagances and faults. She scarcely seems to herself, to have carried a sentiment sufficiently far, until she has provoked some objection to it. The objection, however reasonable and calmly stated — is construed to be persecution; and the persecution — to be a mark of grace. Does this statement appear too strong? Let me then illustrate it — the illustration will furnish an additional proof of the advantage of Eusebia's system of interpretation.
Theodosia talks much of the "doctrine of the cross," of the importance of "preaching Christ," and of the great offence which will infallibly follow. She also persuades herself that she has the Scriptures entirely on her side in all that she affirms on this subject. "God forbid," she says, "that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." She determines "to know nothing save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." These expressions, when in her mouth, signify that the bare doctrine of Christ crucified is the only part of religion which is entitled to much attention — and that even the practice belonging to this very doctrine needs not to be particularly explained and enforced. Does any person object, that her views of this subject are pushed to extravagance — and that her whole religious system is too little practical? She congratulates herself on the offence which she has given — it is the offence of the cross.
I now come to Eusebia's mode of interpreting the same texts. She also determines "to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." She has talents, knowledge, and accomplishments; but the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified is in her eyes the only knowledge which is truly valuable. All her various attainments, as will be more fully shown hereafter, are made subservient to her one great end of glorifying God, and promoting the cause of her Redeemer.
She may be also said to "glory in the cross." She has no confidence in her own goodness — but entirely trusts for salvation to the great and all-sufficient sacrifice once made by her Redeemer. She knows also, that this doctrine of redemption by the sole merits Christ — a doctrine which she zealously affirms, and to which she cordially adheres, is despised and disbelieved by some, is corrupted and evaded by others, and is negligently received by many more. Nevertheless, she does not assume, like Theodosia, that this article of her faith must expose her to persecution, or must necessarily raise strong prejudices against her character.
Eusebia may be said to "glory in the cross" in another and a more general sense; I mean by being in all respects the faithful servant of Him who was crucified, and by showing herself ready to bear reproach on account of her devotedness to Him. She does not, however, consider any peculiar revilement as now likely to be cast upon her, on the ground merely of her being, as was the case with Paul, the follower of one who endured the ignominy of crucifixion. She is well aware that circumstances have, in this respect, changed; and that the cross, which once inspired general contempt — is now commonly thought to have had much honor reflected on it, by having borne the body of the acknowledged Savior of the world.
The cross therefore, taken in the more strict and literal sense of the term, is not understood by Eusebia as now involving that contempt which it called forth in the days of the Apostles — a contempt which Theodosia assumes to be always equally associated with it. The present reproach of Christ, in Eusebia's esteem, is that which is cast upon sincere and devout believers, in consequence of their practical as well as doctrinal difference from the mass of nominal Christians around them — and often results much more from the singularity of their conduct than of their faith.
Theodosia has fallen into a variety of errors, from which Eusebia, through her better mode of interpreting Scripture, is exempt. Theodosia, for example, is so enthusiastic as to think, that study is not necessary to a minister; and I question whether she does not prefer almost any extemporaneous sermon, to the best written discourse; on the ground of her supposing, that unpremeditated addresses from the pulpit are more peculiarly dictated by the Holy Spirit. She has been betrayed into this sentiment, partly by a misconstruction of that saying of Christ to His Apostles, "But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour, what you shall speak: for it is not you that speak — but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you."
Eusebia marks the circumstances under which this assurance was given; she knows that this was one of many special promises made to the twelve Apostles, on the occasion of their being first sent forth to preach, and to work miracles. She would as soon expect that God's providence would now interpose in favor of one who should provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass, in his purse, when he should be about to take a journey — as that extraordinary grace should be given to him, who should in these days ascend the Christian pulpit, having taken no previous thought how or what he should speak.
I will name a still greater error of Theodosia. She is apt to consider the promises of the Bible, with little reference to the character of the person to whom they are given — this is a fault in which Amanda in some degree participates. When she reads the various promises of the Old and New Testaments, she endeavors, in a somewhat enthusiastic manner, to believe that these are words spoken to herself. She does not examine into her heart and life, in order to know whether she is one of those to whom they properly belong; but she assumes that she is entitled to just as much comfort from the passages in question, as she finds herself able to enjoy.
Amanda has a more cold and general way of applying to herself the Divine promises, though she also fails to inquire into her rights to them. The one is inclined to think that they belong only to the elect — but that all are elect who can take comfort in the contemplation of their privileges. The other assuming that we are a generation of Christians, applies to herself the promises made in Scripture to the saints — on the ground, chiefly, of her having been baptized, and of her being one of this Christian nation.
Eusebia, on the contrary, connects the privileges of a believer with his duties. She knows of no "communion with God," of no "experience of His love," which are not combined with love to Him issuing in obedience. She remembers that in her Testament are such passages as these: "If a man loves me — he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." "You are My disciples — if you do whatever I command you." "Everyone who has this hope, purifies himself, even as He is pure."
There is one respect in which Amanda and Theodosia remarkably agree, and in which Eusebia differs from them both; I allude to their mode of interpreting the prophetic parts of Scripture. The French revolution excited, for a time, in these two ladies, in other respects so discordant, a similar curiosity on the subject of ancient prophecy; for it seemed to each of them, to be one of those great events which they might expect to find foretold in Holy Writ; and I rather think, that immediately after the death of Louis, they both turned over nearly the same pages of Daniel and the Revelations, in quest of some passage that should speak of this particular occurrence. They both mistake the intention of prophecy; and they err by being too verbal and minute in their mode of understanding it.
Eusebia has paid considerable attention to the subject, with a view to the confirmation of her faith. It forms a part of that body of evidence, the examination of which has contributed to convince her of the truth of Christianity. But she does not suppose that prophecy was intended to teach us to predict events — nor does she gather her duty from it; and she is much afraid of all fanciful expositions of it, as in the outcome encouraging scepticism instead of strengthening belief.
A few years ago, Theodosia very confidently inferred from some passages in the Revelations, that the Pope never would be restored; and she conceived that the government of this country erred in respect to some of their measures, through their inattention to the prophecies respecting the fall of Anti-Christ. She also felt a strong persuasion that the Millennium was approaching; and to this notion may be referred her too optimistic expectation of immediate and extensive effects from the various missions which have been recently undertaken, as well as an extraordinary donation which she granted for their support. I have heard that she gave an ear to the prophecies of the Brethren; and derived much consolation, though in these instances not so credulous as some of her acquaintance of an inferior class. Amanda is as little disposed as Eusebia to place her faith in such prophets.
But the great advantage of Eusebia, arises from the practical application of the Scriptures to her own heart and life. She reads them not like Theodosia, for the sake of the self-delight enjoyed in seeing these doctrinal truths confirmed for which she is contentious — nor like Amanda for the purpose of fulfilling a customary task; but with a view to grow in grace, and to become acquainted with the whole will of God. Deeply sensible of her natural ignorance, and earnestly supplicating the aid of that Spirit by whom she believes the whole Bible to have been inspired — she both dwells on great and leading truths, and also seeks to be delivered from those numberless partialities, prejudices, and errors, into which she knows that even those who are of the most orthodox creed, are liable to fall.
She profits by every part of the Sacred Word. From the Old Testament she derives . . .
authentic information respecting the Creation and the Fall of Man;
a strong impression of the corruption of the world;
exalted ideas of the character of God;
comprehensive views of the dispensations of His Providence;
a particular acquaintance with the Jewish history;
much knowledge, which is introductory to the belief of a Mediator;
very important helps to devotional religion, and
abundant lessons of the most plain and practical wisdom.
But the New Testament is the great subject of her study . . .
the birth of the promised Savior,
the nature of that kingdom which He came to establish,
the dispositions which characterize the members of it,
the compassion which He exercised,
the miracles which He wrought,
the reproofs which He administered,
the contradiction of sinners which He endured,
the precepts which He delivered,
the doctrines which He taught,
the condescension, meekness, and humility which He manifested,
the dignity and authority which He at the same time asserted,
the submission which He showed to the will of His father, and
the love which He bore to our fallen race;
above all, the death which He died as a sacrifice for sin,
and His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God.
All these objects engage her eager attention, and give to the Gospels a weight and value which are in her eyes unspeakably great.
The subsequent giving of the Holy Spirit,
the conversion of many of the murderers of Christ,
the labors and trials of the Apostles,
the victories which they achieved over Jewish prejudice,
the calling of the Gentiles, and
the establishment of one new and glorious and universal Church
— form equally the subject of her meditation and pious delight.
Nor is she less attentive to the several Epistles of the New Testament. By the aid of these, she endeavors to enter into every feeling of the Apostles. She aims to form the same estimate which they did both of the present and of the future world; to comprehend the nature of their faith and hope, and the ground of their joy in the midst even of tribulation. She marks the great principle by which they were actuated — love to Him who, as it was now revealed to them, had suffered crucifixion for their sakes; and a desire to live no longer to themselves — but unto Him who died for them. She also pays earnest attention to every practical exhortation which they delivered, whether to "honor the king," to "submit to magistrates," to "obey parents," or to "mark those who cause divisions in the church." She bows to the admonition "to render to all their due," to "give unto servants that which is just and equal," to "pay tribute," and to support those freely, who are employed in the spiritual office. She also is instructed to "bridle the tongue," and "not to give place unto anger," to "follow peace with all men," to be patient and forbearing, humble and thankful, "full of pity and courteous;" to "rejoice with those who rejoice," and to "weep with those who weep," to "put on that love which is the bond of perfectness, and without which, though we should understand all mysteries and all knowledge, we are but as sounding brass, and the tinkling cymbal."
Her religion, therefore, is without prejudice or partiality. It may seem inaccurate to some philosophical theologians; for she has not been so careful to complete, after their manner, her system of divinity — as to pursue that kind of perfection in piety, which results from a diligent attention to all the scattered truths of God's own Word. She has many sincerely pious friends, who a little differ from her in their views; but these friends do not separate so far from Eusebia, as from each other; for they depart to contrary sides. She therefore lives in charity with the pious of every description. Her religion, however, lying in the middle way between opposite extremes — gives much offence to no inconsiderable number of people, and even to some who make high pretensions to religion. It is . . .
too moral for the enthusiast,
too spiritual for the moralist,
too gentle as well as charitable, for the strict doctrinalist,
too fervent and animated for the lukewarm,
too difficult for the thoughtless,
too intelligible for the mystic,
too serious for the votaries of gaiety,
too cheerful for those who would make religion to consist in melancholy,
too general to be relished by the little parties and sects which severally contend for their petty peculiarities.
Above all, it is a religion which is hateful to the unrepenting sinner, and which carries alarm to the heart of the unbeliever. For in Eusebia, the impenitent and the unbelieving find an evidence, not easy to be resisted, of the truth and excellency of the word of God.
Eusebia's General Conduct
In some former papers I spoke of the education and of the religious principles of Eusebia, and of her manner of interpreting Scripture. I shall now conclude my account of her by adding some further particulars respecting her conduct, and in the course of my remarks shall again occasionally advert to the character both of Amanda and of Theodosia.
Great diversities of sentiment prevail among professed Christians on the subject of Christian practice. Some have represented Christianity as a religion consisting chiefly in austerities. People of a naturally harsh temper, of a narrow mind, and of a melancholy unsocial disposition — have inclined to these views of religion. There have been men of this class in almost all ages.
We read in the Old Testament of those who "bowed down their head as a bulrush," and were willing "to fast and afflict their souls;" but nevertheless continued to oppress their fellow-creatures with their thinking.
In the time of Christ, the Pharisees disfigured their faces; they were in some things scrupulous even to excess; they "tithed mint, and anise, and cummin," but neglected "judgment, mercy, and faith."
The Papists have largely partaken of the same error. They have obliged men to "abstain from foods, which God has commanded to be received with thankfulness. They have forbidden the marriage of priests — and, actuated partly, as must be granted, by a pious spirit, have encouraged monastic institutions.
Some of the Puritans imbibed a portion of the like spirit. They severely condemned the common vices of the world; but they did not guard with sufficient care, against the different kinds of spiritual wickedness, against censoriousness and uncharitableness, against self-sufficiency and pride.
Theodosia mistakes on this side. Error, however, has various modifications and degrees. When I say that Theodosia is severe, I only mean that she is severe on the side of those strictnesses of her party, the practice of which is easy to a woman of her temper and under her circumstances; for I do not think her by any means inclined to all the austerities common in former days; for example, she does not, like the Pharisee, "fast often." I doubt whether she may not a little too much indulge her appetite at table; and in no respect can she be said to torment her body for the good of her soul; for she is rather late in bed, and has many self-indulgent habits. Her strictness chiefly consists in absenting herself from places of fashionable amusement.
There is a second class of people who, professing to avoid the error which has just been described — frequent without scruple the common scenes of dissipation. They consume their mornings in ceremonious visits, give their evenings to cards, or attend the ball, the play, and the masquerade: and, perceiving that fashionable society has established a certain code of laws for the prevention of flagitious crimes — they assume that a punctual observance of this code is that species of strictness which is required of them as Christians.
Amanda too much confounds herself with this class; though I admit that she is more strict by two or three degrees than the bulk of fashionable Christians. She is one of the first to forbear from visiting an immoral female — and she cannot quite agree with some of her friends, who seem to think all society good, excepting that of people whom a club has rejected, or a court of justice has convicted of the grossest immorality. But though cautious in respect to the reputation of her female friends — she is comparatively indifferent as to the character of the men with whom she freely associates. I should by no means be surprised to hear of her even being united in marriage with some person of wicked conduct, or notoriously impious principles.
Eusebia belongs to a third description of people. She is, in a Christian sense, at war with that world with which Amanda seems to be in league. And she, at the same time, maintains an unceasing conflict with those enemies within the heart, whom Theodosia almost forgets to reckon among the number of her adversaries.
I am afraid that many even of my graver readers have very inadequate ideas of that kind of secret discipline, which Eusebia habitually imposes on herself. I shall therefore be very particular in describing it.
Though she endeavors to exclude all austerity from her religion; though she is almost as fearful of contracting a general severity of disposition, as of indulging any acknowledged sin; though her countenance is cheerful, and her temper mirthful; and though, to use our Savior's expression, she is accustomed to "anoint her head, and to wash her face, so that she appear not unto men to fast" — she observes, I can assure you, a secret system of self-denial, which exceeds even that of the strictest cloister; for it purposes to extend itself to every word she says, to every act she does, and also to her most secret desires and imaginations.
Amanda has little or no struggle with herself. Theodosia, under the pretense of following her religious feelings — seldom does violence to her inclinations. But Eusebia's life is a continual combat. She considers Heaven to be a prize which shall be adjudged only to those who shall first have gained the victory.
By much and earnest prayer,
by devout and holy meditation,
by carefully regulating her temper, and bridling her tongue,
and by closely examining the various customs of her mind, under all the little incidents of life, as well as in its more trying circumstances — she has detected many a corruption of her nature, and has prevailed against it. And though still subject to numerous infirmities as well as occasionally betrayed into some manifest faults — on the whole, she has now, by the grace of God, attained to a strength of principle, and a degree of excellency in conduct, of which Amanda has no conception.
Amanda, as I admit, is very correct. But there is in Eusebia a correctness of another kind, which I wish that I could adequately explain.
To correct her manners, has been the chief object of Amanda.
To possess those views of doctrinal divinity, which she deems correct, has been the aim of Theodosia.
Eusebia is scarcely less attentive to every rule of female propriety than the one — and she no less highly estimates the importance of sound doctrine than the other. But the correctness, in which she labors to excel, has respect chiefly to the heart. She correctly sees what is the inward frame of mind which is required under the Gospel, and is quick to discern in herself — as well as prompt to resist — the feelings of pride, of self-righteousness, of vanity, of self-preference, of envy, of jealousy, of selfishness, of anger and malice, of impatience and discontent. She is a correct judge of the duties which, in this age and nation, Christianity requires of a woman in her circumstances. She has well considered how far she ought to yield to the customs of the present world — and how far it is proper to resist them. She is correct in adjusting the proportion of time which is due to her several employments.
She correctly discerns many distinctions of which Amanda is insensible. She sees the difference between a proper self-distrust — and cowardice in the cause of Christ; between mere softness of nature — and that charity which is a Christian grace.
She also distinguishes between some things which Theodosia confounds: between zeal for certain doctrines of the Gospel — and a true and lively faith; between love of our Christian brethren — and partiality to a sect; between the mere use of religious phrases — and the exercise of the devout affections of the heart.
In short, the great characteristic of Eusebia is this; she endeavors to express, by every action of her life, either her love to God, or her charity to man — and deems herself correct in proportion as she accomplishes this purpose. Hers, however, is an enlightened charity. She is taught by it not only to consent and agree — but also to withstand and resist; "for her love abounds in knowledge, and in all discernment." Her motive to this life of charity, is that which was formerly described. Deeply sensible of her obligations to Him who died for her — she lives no longer to herself. She keeps habitually in her mind that saying of the Apostle, "Brethren, if God so loved us — then we ought also to love one another."
It is probable that some of my readers, while they were perusing that account of Amanda's pleasing disposition, which was given in my first paper, conceived that she was not to be surpassed in point of true practical goodness, although, in respect to certain questions of faith, some others might possibly be superior. I trust that this sentiment has been already in some degree done away — but I am desirous of completely removing it.
Amanda, it was formerly observed, pleases everyone; but she pleases without always serving them. Eusebia, on the contrary, is eager to serve everyone — but at the expense of not always pleasing.
Hence, while Amanda has obtained almost universal favor — Eusebia's name has become a little unpopular in some quarters. She is so resolutely determined to manage her time, to select her acquaintances, and practically to differ, as far as a difference is needful for conscience' sake — from the mass of society in a variety of particulars — that she has obtained the character of being far too precise and unaccommodating.
Eusebia, nevertheless, has a pious circle of her own — and her friends are remarkably attached to her. I am persuaded that several of them would even rejoice in an opportunity of making large sacrifices to serve her — whereas, I question whether any of the thousand friends of Amanda would put themselves, on her account, to any very serious inconvenience. They like her for the entertainment which she affords them. She enlivens them by her conversation; and her attention to them is of that kind which a little flatters their vanity. Do you wish to be amused? Is the morning rainy?
Are the hours heavy on your hands, and would you pay a visit which you may be confident will not prove dull? Then call upon Amanda — and you will be sure to find her good-humored, affable, lively.
Are you in affliction, under temptation, or in perplexity? Repair to Eusebia — her judgment is good. She will feel both for your worldly trial and for your eternal welfare. Her advice, depend upon it, will be sound. You will not repent of having taken it. She is experienced in the art of counseling those who are in trouble, and of comforting the afflicted. She has attended various scenes of sorrow, and is apt to measure the felicity of her own life, by the degree in which she is allowed by Providence to render essential services to her fellow creatures.
And here I would appeal to the consciences of those who complain so heavily of Eusebia's absence from their parties. You wonder what principle of religion can make her object to your innocent recreations — and what can be the occupations which so constantly withdraw her from your society, a society which you admit that she is so well calculated to adorn. Bear with her — she is visiting the sick; she is comforting the widow; she is listening to the tale of the sorrowful and oppressed — and of all these, she has discovered that there is a large number in the world; "she is converting sinners from the error of their ways;" she "is saving souls from death;" she is "hiding a multitude of sins." Bear with her, you sons of luxury and idleness! She is imparting religious instruction to the poor, and is thus teaching them . . .
to view your ostentatious expense without envy;
to live upon the hope of a better world;
to be thankful under every pressure; and
to be obedient to the God amidst all the temptations of this their earthly condition. She superintends a female club, by which the distresses of the sick are mitigated; and by presiding over a school of charity, she communicates religious knowledge to some who may hereafter become instructors.
Bear with her, you votaries of pleasure, and you apologists for every fashionable vice!
She is repairing the mischief which you have done;
she is binding up the hearts which you have broken;
she is administering the consolations of the Gospel to those whom you have overwhelmed with sorrow, and have left destitute.
Though she attends you not to the theater, she is, perhaps, employed in assisting, counseling, and extricating some young and unprotected female who had half engaged herself in its pernicious service. Or she is stretching out the hand of charity to an undone spendthrift, who was once the sharer of your festivity. Or she is rescuing from death, some wretched woman who is tempted to despair, and even to self-murder, through the moral ruin brought upon her by one who is deemed the chief ornament of your society.
But it is only a part of Eusebia's time which is devoted to these employments. She has many occupations, and not a few sources of amusement. The garden is one scene of her enjoyments; and the whole face of nature is viewed by her with a delight which they only know who can trace in it the hand of the Great Artificer — and can ascribe to their own reconciled Father, the various wonders which they contemplate.
In her family also she experiences much happiness. She participates in the playfulness of the children, and she enlivens the gatherings at home, as well as the company of her friends abroad, by the cheerfulness which she introduces into almost every subject of conversation. Those books which improve the heart, or add to the stock of useful knowledge — continue nearly in the same manner as in her earlier days, to obtain a portion of her attention; and they occasionally produce discussions which give animation to the domestic circle.
Eusebia therefore is no melancholy recluse. Under the pressure even of her severest trials, the feelings of her sorrow are mitigated, for she knows "that all things work together for good, to those who love God." She enjoys the humble but comfortable hope, that her own chief interests are secured — and therefore no vicissitude or even calamity of life, destroys the peace of her soul.
Eusebia recently lost her mother. This trouble was attended with much consolation — for how edifying is the spectacle of a dying Christian! She "sorrowed not as one who had no hope;" and she has since applied herself to many new duties, for which indeed she has been well prepared. Her father is still alive. She is now the staff of his old age — and being the eldest daughter, she has the general superintendence of the family. One of her brothers, who is at College, has been much strengthened in resisting the seductions of youth, by the piety of her letters; and another, who is at school, both loves her as a sister, and looks up to her as a mother.
Several neighbors of Eusebia, and a few also of her relations, who pass a large part of their time in visiting — complain of her inattention to them. She nevertheless writes periodically to an old uncle at a distance, and also to two widowed aunts, who say that she communicates almost the only news which they receive of the family occurrences. Eusebia has, moreover, rendered much religious service to some young acquaintances, by her epistolary talents.
Your readers will perceive, even from this brief account of the manner of her life, that it is a life of activity and diligence. Every day appears to her, too short to allow of those idle amusements which an idle world has invented and multiplied, in order to relieve the fatigue arising from the lack of useful employment. Indeed the application of those large charitable funds, which her own and her father's economy supplies — affords to her at once much occupation and enjoyment; and the variety of her duties concurs to prevent her from being weary of any of them.
Amanda is so engaged by the little ceremonies and civilities of life, that, compared with Eusebia, she is only an agreeable trifler. Her conversation with her friends is not even intended to promote any important end; whereas that of Eusebia, into whatever society she may fall, has for its general and ultimate object nothing less than the advancement of the honor of God, and of all the best interests of her fellow-creatures.
Amanda, even in the exercise of her benevolence, lacks the ardor of Eusebia. She visits, as I formerly observed, many poor houses in the country; but her daintiness has not allowed her to enter the neighboring work-house, because she hears that it is very crowded and unpleasant.
Eusebia cannot rest while she knows of any misery which she has a chance of alleviating by her self-denying labor, or even by her spontaneous interference.
Amanda is often restrained from doing good by an improper deference to the opinions of people of her own condition. She encourages the parish school; but she conceives that she should render herself too particular if she were to supply the lack of Christian knowledge in the mistress, by being herself occasionally the religious instructress of the children. She does not concern herself with the poor of an adjoining parish, who are remarkably neglected, lest she should be thought to invade the province of a very affluent family in that parish whom she visits.
Theodosia has no delicacies. She inclines to flatter the poor at the expense of the rich, and is pleased if she hears that an itinerant preacher of more than ordinary boldness has entered a neighboring parish, has inflamed the gentry, and set the clergyman at defiance. She visits some unhappy people of her own gender, with whom it would not consist with Amanda's ideas of propriety to hold any fellowship. She considers these as interesting characters, and instructs them in her doctrines. And if they yield a temporary assent, she repeats everywhere the tale of the miraculous conversion which through her instrumentality has taken place. Her employment in life is that of disseminating her theological tenets; but she a little resembles some traders who are more eager to push off their wares, than careful to deal in a good article. Her religion, however sound in doctrine she may term it, exhibits no great soundness of practice. Relative duties make scarcely any part of her religious system. She has quarreled with both her parents, and chiefly lives alone — except, indeed, that she contrives to have often with her some humble companion who flatters her weaknesses, and spares her bodily trouble. She is continually telling her companions, how much her parents persecute her on account of her religion. She speaks openly in her own circle of their ignorance of the Gospel; and enlarges on this subject in conversation with a favorite maid, who by some is suspected of being a great hypocrite.
In her few occupations, she is aimless and uncertain. She seems, indeed, to think that she has but one duty which is at all sacred or important — that of spreading what she calls the Gospel. And during those numerous hours, which cannot be devoted to this object, it appears to her of no great consequence in what manner she is engaged. The more pleasant occupations are therefore preferred to the more burdensome; a few things are postponed; a few more forgotten or omitted; and though the idleness of cards or of common dissipation is abjured — indolence of other kinds creeps in. Thus without any one great heresy in her faith — a very high profession of religion — is joined with very low practice.
The lives, therefore, both of Amanda and Theodosia, are without that moral excellency by which the life of Eusebia is distinguished.
I cannot close my account of this most excellent young woman, who, according to my humble conception, is a pattern of true virtue — without informing your readers more distinctly than has yet been done of the sentiments which the world entertains respecting her.
The very profligate part of society have not the honor of being at all acquainted with her — and therefore they, perhaps, more than any others, misunderstand her character. They are not aware that there exist any people possessing . . .
a faith so operative,
an integrity so strict, and
a character so fervent.
Some of them represent her as a fool; others traduce her as a hypocrite; and many of them have acquired a notion that she is gloomy, from the circumstance of their having seen her turn grave when she has happened to fall in their company. The mirthful as well as the busy slide into mistakes concerning her. By many of the mirthful it is said that she is a very good woman — but that she has some strange peculiarities, and that she carries everything too far. And by the busy it is affirmed, that there would be no possibility of conducting the affairs of life, if everyone were to follow her example. Some who have heard much of her faith — but are only half acquainted with her principles — represent her as a friend to faith without works; and the very same people occasionally bring against her the still more odious charge of being far too strict in her practice.
Not a few have confounded her with Theodosia — these two women being alike in some points. For example, in their disposition to avoid scenes of dissipation, not to mention a certain degree of coincidence in some articles of faith — it has been most readily assumed that they have every quality in common. Eusebia, therefore, almost in the same manner as Theodosia, has been obliged to bear the appellation of a Methodist, a Puritan, a Fanatic. She has sometimes modestly tried to defend herself from these charges; but her accusers do not like definitions, and seldom enter into particulars. It is enough for them to have always some bad name, which they are prepared to fix upon her — and there is no lack of people who think that it sufficiently applies.
By reciting a little anecdote I may, perhaps, give some explanation of the manner in which she has come under her present reproach.
Eusebia once when she was in London, a place which she has only occasionally visited — declined accepting an invitation to a very great party on a Sunday. The gentleman and lady who invited her were her cousins. The gentleman is a man of some pride; and he professes to be not altogether inattentive to morality and religion. Eusebia plainly, but modestly, expressed in her written answer to the invitation — a religious motive for the refusal. The gentleman considered the note of apology as an implied censure on the Sunday party; and took occasion after dinner to observe to some other members of the family who were present, that Eusebia had been invited to meet them — but had refused to come, though her very note of excuse admitted that she had no particular engagement. He then added, "We all know that Eusebia, though a very good woman, is a little apt to neglect her relative and social duties."
"I am not at all surprised at her refusal," (exclaimed a lady who is remarkable for the largeness of her Sunday card parties) "for Eusebia has been brought up in so puritanical a way, that she does not dare so much as to look out of her window on a Sunday!"
A third person whispered that Eusebia must surely be a Methodist. "I think that she must be a Dissenter," said a fourth, "for I have heard that the Dissenters are very strict about the Sunday." "Well" (added a fifth), "I believe the Dissenters and Methodists together will be the ruin of the Church — and if the Church goes, we all know that the State will soon follow." Poor Eusebia now seemed to be convicted of being both a Methodist, a Dissenter, and a bad citizen — when a blunt kind of gentleman, who knew her better than the other guests, and who, by the way, understood more of religion than he cared altogether to practice — asserted in a very audible voice, that he believed her to be a perfect saint; and that he would undertake to prove that she was a true member of the Church of England, both in doctrine, discipline, and worship. The subject now appeared to the lady of the house, to be growing much too serious for the general taste of her Sunday party; and therefore, by affecting to be much surprised at the violence of a shower of rain which began to fall — she cut short the discussion.
An unprejudiced observer might easily perceive that no charge had been proved against Eusebia. Nevertheless, more than one person of the party has founded, on this conversation, some confident assertions, that Eusebia is a most aggressive Methodist, assertions which have been very freely circulated; and several others carried away with them a confused idea that there must at least be something methodistical about her.
The prejudice against Eusebia in certain parts of the dissipated world is very strong. I understand that some mothers who are deemed very grave by the mirthful, and who also set up a certain claim to orthodoxy — have been heard to affirm, that they cannot in conscience allow Eusebia to become intimate with their daughters, lest she should infect them with her religious errors, and in particular lest she should prejudice them against those places of public amusement, by constantly resorting to which, they so much improve their chance of forming the very best marital connections.
An acquaintance with Eusebia is, however, by no means universally avoided. Even some women, remarkable for their vanity, and a few others of a rather doubtful moral reputation — are ambitious of being introduced to her. I suspect that they hope to improve their worldly character by some little participation of her religious credit. They know indeed, that they are in no danger of sharing her reproach. The ball, the play, the opera, the assembly, the card-table, to which they so regularly resort — preserve them from being suspected of the gloom of Methodism, or of any lack of orthodoxy in their faith.
There are also many people who, knowing little of Eusebia, occasionally break out into expressions of the most extravagant praise on hearing of some of her beneficent deeds. Often, indeed, such commendation is in part retracted; for her life so plainly condemns the world, that when her whole character is discussed, the world seldom fails to condemn her in return. That applause, however, which attends many of her individual acts, as well as that admiration which her candor, humility, and general kindness excite — make a very general impression in her favor.
Eusebia is also befriended by a class of people mixing much with the world, who commonly pass under the name of the well-disposed. Some of these, perhaps, are not altogether impious characters. Others of them content themselves with giving only one symptom of religion — that of perpetually extolling religious people. Eusebia enjoys a very liberal portion of their praise.
To all these are added a few favorers of Eusebia, who, though of the party of the world — understand her far better than any who have yet been named. I allude to some men who perhaps passed a week in her family when they were young, and had thus an opportunity of knowing the principles in which she was educated; and to a few women, not much her juniors, who recollect how she once endeavored both to entertain and instruct them, and how she labored to guard them against the very life into which they now have fallen. They know the pious sincerity of her heart; and perhaps nothing is more likely to detach them from some of their present associates, than the contempt which they hear occasionally poured on one whom they so highly venerate. They are, indeed, ashamed of vindicating her cause — but they dare not swell the number of her adversaries. Occasions have arisen on which their conscience having compelled them to become unwilling witnesses on her side — they have proved the best supporters of her reputation.
Your readers will therefore perceive, that some diversity of opinion concerning the character of Eusebia prevails in the world. In this respect she bears a resemblance to Him of whom it is recorded, that "some said, He is a good man; and some said, Nay — but He deceives the people!"
But though Eusebia is at present, all things considered, in very tolerable reputation — it is by no means impossible that new circumstances should occur which may give an additional shock to her reputation. She is apt to come occasionally under a cloud in consequence of her not bending to the humor of the times, and of not varying the religious course of her life in compliment to any people, and with a view to any secular advantages.
When, for example, through some temporary change of residence she enters a new circle, her singularities offend others — and perhaps very trying situations arise. She would, however, prefer dying at a stake — to the desertion of her principles. On the other hand, while she remains at her accustomed habitation, her path is comparatively smooth. There her reputation is continually on the increase; there she is in the bosom of her friends; there a multitude of poor raise their voice in her favor; there prejudices have been overcome, malice has been put to shame, and her popularity might be a subject of envy even to Amanda.
But I will dwell no longer on the opinions entertained of her by her fellow-creatures. Her "praise is not from men — but from God." Soon, indeed, her character shall be vindicated before the assembled world! In the mean time, she is well contented to pass "through evil report, and good report, and to possess that honor which comes from God alone." She waits for the great Day of "the manifestation of the sons of God." "Then shall her righteousness be brought forth as the light, and her judgment as the noon-day." Then those who once despised her — shall be compelled to exclaim, "We fools counted her life madness, and her end to be without honor. Now is she numbered among the saints, and her lot is among the children of God!"