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An eminent professor of our own time, modestly declared that he taught chemistry in order that he might learn it. The writer of the following pages might, with far more justice, offer a similar declaration, as an apology for so repeatedly treating on the important topics of religion and morals. Abashed by the equitable precept,
Let those teach others who themselves excel she is aware, how fairly she is putting it in the power of the reader, to ask, in the searching words of an eminent old prelate, “ They that speak thus and advise thus, do they do thus ?” She can defend herself in no other way, than by adopting for a reply the words of the same yenerable divine, which immediately follow“O that it were not too true. Yet although it be but little that is attained, the very aim is right, and something there is that is done by it. It is better to have such thoughts and desires, than altogether to give them up; and the very desire, if it be serious and sincere, may so much change the habitude of the soul and life, that it is not to be despised.”
The world does not require so much to be informed as reminded. A remembrancer may be almost as useful as an instructer; if his office be more humble, it is scarcely less necessary. The man whose employment it was, statedly to proclaim in the ear of Philip, REMEMBER THAT THOU ART MORTAL, had his plain admonition been allowed to make its due impression, might have produced a more salutary effect on the royal usurper, than the impassioned orations of his immortal assailant
whose resistless eloquence Sbook th' arsenal, and fulmined over Greece,
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne. While the orator boldly strove to check the ambition, and arrest the injustice of the king, the simple herald barely reminded him, how short would be the reign of injustice, how inevitable and how near was the final period of ambition. Let it be remembered to the credit of the monarch, that while the thunders of the politician were intolerable, the monitor was of his own appointment.
This slight sketeh, for it pretends to no higher name, aims only at being plain and practical. Contending solely for those indispensable points, which, by involving present duty, involve future happi
ness, the writer has avoided, as far as Christian sincerity permits, all controverted topics; has shunned whatever might lead to disputation rather than to profit.
We live in an age, when, as Mr. Pope observed of that in which he wrote, it is criminal to be moderate. Would it could not be said that religion has her parties as well as politics! Those who endeavor to steer clear of all extremes in either, are in danger of being reprobated by both. It is rather a hardship for persons, who having considered it as a Christian duty to cultivate a spirit of moderation in thinking, and of candor in judging, that, when these dispositions are brought into action, they frequently incur a harsher censure, than the errors which it was their chief aim to avoid.
Perhaps, therefore, to that human wisdom whose leading object is human applause, it might answer best to be exclusively attached to some one party. On the protection of that party at least, it might in that case reckon; and it would then have the dislike of the opposite class alone to contend against ; while those who cannot go all lengths with either, can hardly escape the disapprobation of both.
To apply the remark to the present case.-The author is apprehensive that she may be at once censured by opposite classes of readers, as being too strict, and too relaxed ; – too much attached to opinions, and too indifferent about them; - as having narrowed the broad field of Christianity by laboring to establish its peculiar doctrines ; -as having broken down its inclosures by not confining herself to doctrines exclusively ; -as having considered morality of too little importance, as having raised it to an undue elevation; -as having made practice every thing; as having made it nothing.
While a Catholic spirit is accused of being latitudinarian in one party, it really is so in another. In one, it exhibits the character of Christianity on her own grand but correct scale; in the other, it is the offspring of that indifference, which, considering all opinions as of nearly the same value, indemnifies itself for tolerating all, by not attaching itself to any; which, establishing a self-complacent notion of general benevolence, with a view to discredit the narrow . spirit of Christianity, and adopting a display of that cheap material, liberal sentiment, as opposed to religious strictness, sacrifices true piety to false candor.
Christianity may be said to suffer between two criminals, but it is difficult to determine by which she suffers most; — whether by that uncharitable bigotry which disguises her divine character, and speculatively adopts the fagot and the flames of inquisitorial intolerance; or by that indiscriminate candor, that conceding slackness, which, by stripping her of her appropriate attributes, reduces her to something scarcely worth contending for; to something which, instead of making her the religion of Christ, generalizes her into any religion which may choose to adopt her. The one distorts her lovely lineaments into caricature, and throws her graceful figure into gloomy shadow; the other, by daubing her over with colors not her own, renders her form indistinct, and obliterates her fea
tures. In the first instance, she excites little affection ; in the latter, she is not recognised.
The writer has endeavored to address herself as a Christian who must die soon, to Christians who must die certainly. She trusts that she shall not be accused of erecting herself into a censor, but be considered as one who writes with a real consciousness that she is far from having reached the attainments she suggests; with a heartfelt conviction of the danger of holding out a standard too likely to discredit her own practice. She writes not with the assumption of superiority, but with a deep practical sense of the infirmities against which she has presumed to caution others. She wishes to be understood as speaking the language of sympathy, rather than of dictation; of feeling rather than of document. So far from fancying herself exempt from the evils on which she has animadverted, her very feeling of those evils has assisted her in their delineation. Thus this interior sentiment of her own deficiencies, which might be urged as a disqualification, has, she trusts, enabled her to point out dangers to others. If the patient cannot lay down rules for the cure of a reigning disease, much less effect the cure ; yet from the symptoms common to the same malady, he who labors under it may suggest the necessity of attending to it. He may treat the case feelingly, if not scientifically. He may substitute experience, in default of skill : he may insist on the value of the remedy he has neglected, as well as recommend that from which he has found benefit.
The subjects considered in these volumes have been animadverted on, have been in a manner exhausted, by persons before whose names the author bows down with the deepest humility ; by able professional instructers, by piety adorned with all the graces of style, and invigorated with all the powers of argument.
Why then, it may be asked, multiply books which may rather incumber the reader than strengthen the cause ? -" That the older is better” cannot be disputed. But is not the being “old ” sometimes a reason why the being “better" is not regarded ? Novelty itself is an attraction which but too often supersedes merit. A slighter drapery, if it be a new one, may excite a degree of attention to an object, not paid to it when clad in a richer garb to which the eye has been accustomed.
The author may begin to ask with one of her earliest and most enlightened friends*__" Where is the world into which we were born?” Death has broken most of those connections which made the honor and the happiness of her youthful days. Fresh links however have continued to attach her to society. She is singularly happy in the affectionate regard of a great number of amiable young persons, who may peruse, with additional attention, sentiments which come recommended to them by the warmth of their own attachment, more than by any claim of merit in the writer. Is there not something in personal knowledge, something in the feelings of endeared acquaintance, which, by that hidden association, whence so much of our undefined pleasure is derived, if it does not impart new force
* Dr. Johnson.
to old truths, may excite a new interest in considering truths which are known? Her concern for these engaging persons extends beyond the transient period of present intercourse. It would shed a ray of brightness on her parting hour, if she could hope that any caution here held out, any principle here suggested, any habit here recommended, might be of use to any one of them, when the hand which now guides the pen, can be no longer exerted in their service. This would be remembering their friend in a way which would evince the highest affection in them, which would confer the truest honor on herself.
Barley Wood, March 1st, 1811.