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With “mysterious reverence” I forbear to descant on those serious and interesting rites, for the more aligust and solemn celebration of which, Fashion nightly convenes these splendid myriads to her more sumptuous temples. Rites ! which, when engaged in with due devotion, ab. sorb the whole soul, and call every passion into exercise, except indeed those of love, and peace, and kindness, and gentleness. Inspiring rites ! which stimulate fear, rouse hope, kindle zeal, quicken dulness, sharpen discernment, exercise memory, inflame curiosity ! Rites ! in short, in the due performance of which all the energies and atten.' tions, all the powers and abilities, all the abstraction and exertion, all the diligence and devotedness, all the sacri. fice of time, all the contempt of ease, all the neglect of sleep, all the oblivion of care, all the risks of fortune (half of which, if directed to their true objects, would change the very face of the world :) all these are concentrated to one point; a point, in which the wise and the weak, the learned and the ignorant, the fair and the frightful, the sprightly and the dull, the rich and the poor, the Patrician and Plebeian, meet in one common and uniform equality; an equality as religiously respected in these so. lemnities, in which all distinctions are levelled at a blow, and of which the very spirit is therefore democratical, as it is combated in all other instances.

Behold four Kings in majesty rever'd,
With hoary whiskers and a forked beard ;
And four fair Queens, whose hand sustain a flow'r,
Th'expressive emblem of their softer pow'r;
Four Knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band,
Caps on their heads, and halberts in their hand;
And party-coloured troops, a shining train,
Drawn forth to combat on the velvet plain.*

* Rape of the Lock

CHAPTER XVII.

It is

On public amusements.

Tis not proposed to enter the long contested held of controversy, as to the individual amusements which may be considered as safe and lawful for those women of the higher class who make a strict profession of Christianity. The judgment they will be likely to form for themselves on this subject, and the plan they will consequently adopt, will depend much or the clearness or obscurity of their religious views; and on the greater or less progress they have made in their Christian course. It is in their choice of amusements that you get in some measure to know the real dispositions of mankind. In their business, in the leading employments of life, their path is in a good degree chalked out for them : there is, in this respect, a sort of general character, wherein the greater part, more or less, must coincide. But in their pleasures the choice is volan. tary, the taste is self-directed, the propensity is independ. ent; and of course the habitual state, the genuine bent and bias of the temper are most likely to be seen in those por. suits, which every man is at liberty to choose for himself.

When a truly religious principle shall have acquired soch a degree of force as to produce that conscientious and ha. bitual improvement of time before recommended, it will discover itself by an increasing indifference and even dead. ness to those pleasures which are interesting to the world at large. A woman under the predominating influence of such a principle, will begin to discover that the same thing which in itself is innocent may yet be comparatively wrong. She will begin to feel that there are many amuse. ments and employments which, though they have nothing censurable in themselves, yet if they be allowed to en. trench on hours which ought to be dedicated to still better purposes ; or if they are protracted to an undue length; or above all, if by softening and relaxing her mind, and dissipating her spirits, they so indispose her for better pur. suits as to render subsequent duties a burden, become in that case clearly wrong for her, whatever they may be for others. Now as temptations of this sort are the peculiar, dangers of better kind of characters, the sacrifice of such little gratifications as may have no great harm in them, come in among the daily calls to self-denial in a Christian.

The fine arts, for instance, polite literature, elegant so. ciety, these are among the lawful, and liberal, and becom. ing recreations of higher life; yet if even these be cultivated to the neglect or exclusion of severer duties; if they interfere with serious studies, or disqualify the mind for religious exercises, it is an intimation that they have been too much indulged; and, under such circumstances, it might be the part of Christian circumspection to inquire if the time devoted to them ought not to be abridged. Above all, a tender conscience will never lose sight of one safe rule of determining in all doubtful cases; if the point be so nice that though we hope upon the whole there

may

be no harm in engaging in it, we may at least be always quite sure that there can be no harm in letting it alone. The adoption of this simple rule would put a period to much unprofitable casuistry.

The principle of being responsible for the use of time once fixed in the mind, the conscientious Christian will be making a continual progress in the great art of turning time to account. In the first stages of her religion she will have abstained from pleasures which began a little to wound the conscience, or which assumed a questionable shape ; but she will probably have abstained with regret, and with a secret wish that conscience could have permit. ted her to keep well with pleasure and religion too. But you may discern in her subsequent course that she has reached a more advanced stage, by her beginning to peglect even such pleasures or employments as have no mor. al turpitude in them, but are merely what are called inno. cent. This relinquishment arises, not so much from her feeling still more the restraints of religion, as from the improvement in her religious taste. Pleasures cannot now attach her merely from their being innocent, unless they are interesting also ; and to be interesting they must be consonant to her superinduced views. She is not cun. tented to spend a large portion of her time harmlessly, it must be spent profitably also. Nay, if she be indeed ear. nestly pressing towards the mark," it will not be even enough for her that her present pursuit be good, if she be convinced that it might be still better. Her contempt of

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ordinary enjoyments will increase in a direct proportion to her increased relish for those pleasures which religion enjoins and bestows. So that at length, if it were possible to suppose that an angel could come down to take off as it were the interdict, and to invite her to resume all the pleasures she had renounced, and to resume them with complete impunity, she would reject the invitation, because she would despise, from an improvement in her spiritual taste, those delights from which she had at first abstained through fear. Till her will and affections come heartily to be engaged in the service of God, the progress will not be comfortable ; but when once they are so engaged, the attachment to this service will be cordial, and her heart will not desire to go back and toil again in the drudgery of the world. For her religion has not so much given her a new creed, as a new heart and a new life.

As her views are become new, so her tempers, disposi. tions, tastes, actions, pursuits, choice of company, choice of amusements, are new also ; her employment of time is changed; her turn of conversation is altered; " old things

are passed away, all things are become new.” In dissi. pated and worldly society, she will seldom fail to feel a sort of uneasiness, which will produce one of these two ef. fects; she will either, as proper seasons present themselves, struggle hard to introduce such subjects as may be useful to others; or, supposing that she finds herself unable to effect this, she will, as far as she prudently can, absent herself from all unprofitable kind of society. Indeed, her manner of conducting herself under these circumstances may serve to furnish her with a test of her own sincerity. For while people are contending for a little more of this amusement, and pleading for a little extension of that gratification, and fighting in order that they may hedge in a little more territory to their pleasure ground, they are exhibiting a kind of evidence against themselves, that they are not yet renewed in the spirit of their mind.”

It has been warmly urged as an objection to certain re. - Jigious books, and particularly against a recent work of

high worth and celebrity, by a distinguished layman,* that they have set the standard of self-denial higher than rea. son or even than Christianity requires. These works do

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* Practical View, &c. by Mr. Wilberforce.

indeed elevate the general tone of religion to a higher pitch than is quite convenient to those who are at infinite pains to construct a comfortable and comprehensive plan, which shall unite the questionable pleasures of this world with the promised happiness of the next. I say it has been sometimes objected, even by those readers who on the whole greatly admire the particular work alluded to, that it is unreasonably strict in the preceptive and prohibitory parts; and especially that it individually and specifically forbids certain fashionable amusements, with a severity not to be found in the scriptures ; and is scrupulously rigid in condemning diversions against which nothing is said in the New Testament; each objector, however, is so far reasonable, as only to beg quarter for her own favourite di. version, and generously abandons the defence of those in which she herself has no pleasure.

But these objectors do not seem to understand the true genius of Christianity. They do not consider that it is the character of the Gospel to exhibit a scheme of princi. ples, of which it is the tendency to infuse such a spirit of holiness as must be utterly incompatible, not only with customs decidedly vicious, but with the very spirit of worldly pleasure. They do not consider that Christianity is neither a table of ethics, nor a system of opinions, nor a bundle of rods to punish, nor an exhibition of re. wards to allure, nor a scheme of restraints, nor merely a code of laws; but it is a new principle infused into the heart by the word and the Spirit of God, out of which principle will inevitably grow right opinions, renewed af fections, correct morals, and holy habits, with an invaria. ble desire of pleasing God, and a constant fear of offend. ing him. A real Christian, whose heart is once thorough. ly imbued with this principle, can do more return to the amusements of the world, than a philosopher can be refreshed with the diversions of the vulgar, or a man be amused with the recreations of a child. The New Tes. tament is not a mere statute book : it is not a table where every offence is detailed, and its corresponding penalty annexed : it is not so much a compilation, as a spirit of laws: it does not so much prohibit every individual wrong practice, as suggest a temper and general principle with which every wrong practice is incompatible. It did not, for instance, so much attack the then reigning and cor

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