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ling in the fine arts, have carefully enriched their un. derstandings; who, enjoying great affluence, devote it to the glory of God; who, possessing elevated rank, think their noblest style and title is that of a Christian.
That there is also much worth which is little known, she is persuaded; for it is the modest nature of goodness to exert itself quietly, while a few characters of the op. posite cast, seem, by the rumour of their exploits, to fill the world ; and by their noise to multiply their num. bers. It often happens that a very small party of peo. ple, by occupying the foreground, so seize the public at. tention, and monopolize the public talk, that they ap. pear to be the great body: and a few active spirits, provided their activity take the wrong turn and support the wrong cause, seem to fill the scene ; and a few dis. turbers of order, who have the talent of thus exciting a false idea of their multitudes by their mischiefs, ac. tually gain strength and swell their numbers by this fallacious arithmetic.
But the present work is no more intended for a panegyric on those purer characters who seek not human praise because they act from a higher motive, than for a satire on the avowedly licentious, who, urged by the impulse of the moment or led away by the love of fashion, dislike not censure, so it may serve to rescue them from neglect or oblivion.
There are, however, multitudes of the young and the well-disposed, who have as yet taken no decided part, who are just launching on the ocean of life, just about to lose their own right convictions, and to counteract their better propensities, unreluctantly yielding them. selves to be carried down the tide of popular prac. tices, sanguine and confident of safety. To these the author would gently hint, that, when once embarked, it will be no longer easy to say to their passions, or even to their principles, “ Thus far shall ye go, and no further."
Should any reader revolt at what is conceived to be unwarranted strictness in this little book, let it not be thrown by in disgust before the following short consider
ation be weighed. If in this Christian country we are actually beginning to regard the solemn office of Baptism as merely furnishing an article to the parish regis. ter; if we are learning from our indefatigable Teach. ers, to consider this Christian rite as a legal ceremony retained for the sole purpose of recording the age of our children; then, indeed, the prevailing System of Edu. cation and Manners on which these volumes presjime to animadvert, may be adopted with propriety and persist. ed in with safety, without entailing on our children or on ourselves the peril of broken promises or the guilt of violated vows.
But, if the obligation which Christian Baptism imposes be really binding; if the ordinance have, indeed, a meaning beyond a mere sécular trans. action, beyond a record of names and dates; if it be an institution by which the child is solemnly devoted to God as his father, to Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and to the Holy Spirit as his Sanctifier; if there be no defi. nite period assigned when the obligation of fulfilling the duties it enjoins shall be superseded ; if, having opce dedicated our offspring to their Creator, we no longer dare to mock Him by bringing them np in ignorance of His Will and neglect of His Laws; if, after having en listed them under the banners of Christ, to fight man, fully against the three great enemies of mankind, we are no longer at liberty to let them lay down their arms; much less to lead them to act as if in alliance instead of hostility with these enemies ; if after having promised that they shall renounce the vanities of the world, we are not allowed to invalidate the engagement ; if after such a covenant we should tremble to make these re. nounced vanities the supreme object of our own pursuit or of their instruction ; if all this be really so, then the Strictures on Modern Education, and on the Habits of polished Life, will not be found so repugnant to truth, and reason, and common sense, as may on a first view be supposed.
But if on candidly summing up the evidence, the de. sign and scope of the author be fairly judged, not by the customs or opinions of the worldly, (for every
English subject has a right to object to a suspected or prejudiced jury) but by an appeal to that divine law which is the only infallible rule of judgment; if on such an appeal her views and principles shall be found cen. surable for their rigour, absurd in their requisitions, or preposterous in their restrictions, she will have no right to complain of such a verdict, because she will then stand condemned by that court to whose decision she implicitly submits.
Let it not be suspected that the author arrogantly conceives herself to be exempt from that natural cor. ruption of the heart which it is one chief object of this slight work to exhibit; that she superciliously erects herself into the impeccable censor of her sex and of the world; as if from the critic's chair she were coldly pointing out the faults and errors of another order of beings, in whose welfare she had not that lively interest which can only flow from the tender and intimate par. ticipation of fellow.feeling.
With a deep self-abasement arising from a strong conviction of being indeed a partaker in the same corrupt nature ; together with a full persuasion of the many and great defects of these volumes, and a sincere consciousness of her inability to do justice to a subject which, however, a sense of duty impelled her to under. take, she commits herself to the candour of that public which has so frequently, in her instance, accepted a right intention as a substitute for a powerful performance.
BATH, MARCH 14, 1799.
Address to women of rank and fortune, on the effects of
their influence on society. --Suggestions for the exertion of it in various instances.
MONG the talents for the application of which women of the higher class will be peculiarly accountable, there is one, the importance of which they can scarcely rate too highly. This talent is influ.
We read of the greatest orator of antiquity, that the wisest plans which it had cost him years to frame, a woman could overturn in a single day; and when one considers the variety of mischiefs which an ill. directed influence has been known to produce, one is led to reflect with the most sanguine hope on the bene. ficial effects to be expected from the same powerful force when exerted in its true direction.
The general state of civilized society depends, more than those are aware, who are not accustomed to scru. tipize into the springs of human action, on the prevail. ing sentiments and habits of women, and on the nature and degree of the estimation in which they are held. Even those who admit the power of female elegance on the manners of men, do not always attend to the influ. ence of female principles on their character. In the former case, indeed, women are apt to be sufficiently