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to its professed religion. Instead of the profession of Christianity being regarded as an acknowledgment of express personal obligation to give practical effect, as far as possible, to every one of the Divine precepts, it is only too plain, from constantly recurring illustrations, that the business of life is ordinarily considered as something outside it, and not amenable to it. The majority of people seem to think that Christianity means mental assent to certain theological propositions, acknowledgment of which is enough, and all that is wanted for salvation. When will they come round to the genuine Scripture doctrine that men are saved, not by a creed, but through minute observance of the laws of charity and love? What “charity” is we have all of us learned long ago from the famous Epistle to the people of Corinth-evoked, by the way, in part, by the domestics of a good woman, Grecian Chloë (1 Cor. i. 11). What the other is let us ask Swedenborg, who still does no more than paraphrase Scripture when he says that “love is the desire that one's own should become another's." Love and charity so defined supply the true reading of what Christianity consists in. Where these great laws are not paramount, no country can logically and consistently call itself Christian ; the people there are “heathen” still, and missionaries have their work before them quite as much as at the antipodes.
Keeping to this, the central idea of the missionary function, how delightful becomes the spectacle of what women have done of late years, and are daily effecting, for Christianity in our own island! The consideration of their work falls, however, under two distinct heads. First, we have that which consists in kindly and unwearying effort to move the hearts of those addressed by means simply of Scripture reading, devotional exercises, and the preliminaries of education ; secondly, we have the greater and richer work expressed in what are familiarly called “philanthropic movements.” In reference to these last it is well to remember that the records of the Divine life upon earth are made up mainly of accounts of good deeds performed, directly with regard to the bodies of men, though in their prime intent representative of what is ready and waiting to be done for the soul.
In illustration of the first, there is the thousand-times-told narrative of the labours of Mrs. Fry, the “female Howard” as she has been justly called, who after distinguishing herself during girlhood, by her active sympathy with the poor and afflicted of her native city, and subsequently, in the general business of the Society of Friends, at thirty-two, in the year 1812, began the great work which has rendered her name
imperishable—the reformation of Newgate. It is not possible, at the present day, to form any conception of the character of a felons' prison as it was only seventy years ago. The young thief, nurtured from infancy in crime and degradation, found the prison a place where he graduated, as students graduate in learning at a university. No attempt was made to classify the inmates. The old corrupted the young; the hardened offender became the tutor of the novice; and just as a pestilence is spread by contagion, so was everything that is morally frightful encouraged within the dreadful precincts of the gaol of the olden time. It was to confront this horrible state of things, and in some degree, with God's help, the Bible in her hand, to mitigate the unspeakable wretchedness, especially of the women, that Mrs. Fry made her way into Newgate. The wonderful results of her patient exertions, when every one told her they were useless, is well known. Continuing her benevolent labours to the end of her life—1845—she nobly earned for herself the distinction of being one of the greatest and truest benefactors of mankind. No woman ever showed more remarkably than Mrs. Fry, that however often repulsed, and however mockingly, a pious and determined feminine heart knows nothing of the word “ defeat." Even the chaplains told her she must inevitably fail. She proved how true it is that those who are bent upon great deeds must never listen to the “voices from without.” It is doubtful if anything glorious and nobly useful has ever been accomplished through asking “What will people say?" or by giving way to local or personal opinion. Mrs. Fry's experience supplies a hint also to those who distrust their power to do good, since nothing more formidable can ever be undertaken by a woman; work so wonderful implies not only the possibility, but the practicability of any minor enterprise. Would that our English ladies could be got to believe how much talent and splendid service is never played forth just for want of a little courage.
. It is natural perhaps for the modesty of women to lead them to underrate their powers (though plenty are vain enough to suppose they could be martyrs, etc.), but the power is still there. She has only to find courage, and to remember that a woman wins her way here as everywhere, not by show of hauteur, but through gentleness. The lowest and the least educated are able to understand the calm and refinement which always characterize the genuine lady; through these it was, unquestionably, that Mrs. Fry won her greatest victories.
The example she set was taken up by a poor woman whose name is entitled to honour scarcely inferior—the simple Yarmouth dressmaker, who, like Mrs. Fry, gave her whole soul to the miserable prisoners in what sixty years ago was the most miserable of provincial gaols. Sarah Martin's labours, almost incredible, but followed by similar results, have many times been described ;? there is no need accordingly to add more than that she died in 1842, when just entering her fifty-first year, one of the noblest of her generation, indefatigable almost to the painful close of her existence, and uttering with her last breath the simple words, Thank God !
On a par, nearly, as to originality of design, with the work of these two, and quite as striking in the results, was that commenced by Miss Catherine Marsh, in 1853, on behalf of the "navvies” employed on the foundations of the Sydenham Crystal Palace. The particulars are given at length in that charming little book "English Hearts and English Hands”-one of the most valuable contributions ever made to the literature of home-missionary enterprise. They have been reproduced in one or two other works-notably in Wilson's "Heroines of the Household;" it will suffice, therefore, to say that her scheme was to introduce the Gospel among the navvies, to show them the best feature of practical Christianity-its perfect accordance with the first principles of common-sense—and thus to awaken in them the sense of self-respect, and woo them into regard for cleanliness and sobriety. The men were got together in the evenings; now and then there were pleasant tea-parties; they were visited when sick, and in times of temporary scarcity they had their wants supplied. No wonder that the efforts to Christianize them had their reward. Miss Marsh's father, at the period referred to, was the incumbent of Beckenham, and never surely were a pastor's efforts better seconded. Early in 1855 a considerable number of these navvies were enrolled in the Army Works Corps intended for the Crimea, and in the July of that year they were despatched thither. Miss Marsh now again showed herself their kind and thoughtful friend. She constituted herself a private Savings Bank, encouraging the men to save all they could out of their wages and to remit the money to England, so that on their return home every depositor had a fund awaiting him.
Mentioning this last particular brings to mind that the originator of Savings Banks in the full and established sense of the word was a woman. They were begun, not, as generally supposed, by the Act of
1 In the best manner in “The Book of Noble Englishwomen,” edited by Charles Bruce, 1875. Publicity was first given to her name and work in the Edinburgh Review,
Parliament passed in 1817, the statute of that year simply providing for their proper management. The real beginning was at Tottenham in October 1798, and the actual founder was that excellent Quakeress Priscilla Wakefield, whose unassuming educational works, including a nice little “ Introduction to Botany,” are to this day remembered with gratitude and affection. She commenced by persuading sixty poor children to bring their pennies to her monthly. In 1804 a regular system of deposit, with trustees and books, kept by a lady, was instituted for farm-labourers and domestic servants. In 1814 the idea was taken up in Edinburgh : the newspapers and reviews gave it publicity: then came the Act, and by degrees the general establishment of Savings Banks, one of the greatest blessings ever provided for the industrious and thrifty labourer. Mrs. Wakefield spent the latter part of her life at Ipswich, where she died in 1832, aged eighty-two.1
Returning to recent female home-missionary' work, we may refer, before passing to other topics, to the admirable movement on behalf of the poor of low London, instituted in 1857, and described in the Missing Link for December 1878, at which date the promoters had no fewer than 250 women employed as Bible-readers and Bible-women nurses; and briefly, in illustration of what a zealous woman accomplish, single-handed, to the labours of Miss Ellice Hopkins. Long before she was twenty she established classes for grown men, aiming specially at the worst characters of the neighbourhood in which she resided. With gain of experience and opportunity, she took in hand the same general kind of work as Miss Catherine Marsh's, and her success appears to have grown with her exertions. A brave enterprise at any time is that of lady-preacher. What comes of it, when the perseverance is equal to the energy, Miss Hopkins tells us in those most interesting little volumes, “Work in Brighton," "Work among the Soldiers,” “Work among the Lost,” “ Christ the Consoler,” and last, and perhaps best of all, “Work amongst Working Men.” Miss Ellice Hopkins plainly demonstrates in her various writings that in dealing with rough men and uncouth lads, a refined and upright woman, intent on doing godly service, never need sacrifice her womanliness. On the contrary, it is proved most emphatically in such enterprises that in a woman's weakness lies her strength. The incidents she records are full of living interest. They testify to the intrinsic efficacy of the Gospel, let it only be set before people in
1 See, in authentication, the Athenæum of March 20, 1846, p. 309. Also pp. 413 and 465.
a considerate and inoffensive way, and that compassionate and self-denying service rendered to mankind is vivified unreservedly by our heavenly Father. If men deserve our thanks for the gift of great scientific books, how much more grateful should we be for such as stimulate, after the manner of these, to Christian activity! People who have no spirit for such undertakings often cry out that they do not fall within woman's “sphere." The proper “sphere ” for a human being, whether male or female, is not the arbitrary or conventionalized one which may be dictated by prejudice, ignorance, or fashion, but that in which he or she can render best service to God and man; the largest and highest, to this end, to which it is possible to lift one's self; and so long as any one, either man or woman, is content to occupy a lower “sphere,” it is he or she who is in the wrong one, and not the faithful woman who goes among the empty and uncivilized, resolved to do them good. Whatever can be done well and sincerely to the glory of God, falls as much within woman's “sphere” as any kind of domestic occupation. No undertaking is wrong, unmanly in men, or unwomanly in women, that God can be conscientiously asked to prosper. To determine which kind of work is “suitable for a woman,” we have simply to ask, what in the sight of heaven is benevolent? what is useful and salutary ? what will brighten human life and ameliorate it? The really unfeminine work is that which has no benevolence in it; the most unwomanly of women are those who refuse to make small sacrifices of personal interest or liking when the good of the neighbour is the consideration, who weep and wail over sentimental personal trifles, and are never seen or heard of in connection with charity. Practically, it follows that in order for a woman to be enabled to play forth her best capacities—to be fitted, that is to say, to occupy her proper “sphere,” she should be conceded full liberty of choice as to profession or occupation, a liberty quite as ample as that which is claimed by
She will not abuse it by going beyond the bounds prescribed by her native perception of propriety; nor will she render herself ridiculous by usurpation. Though not always philosophers, women, in the ordinary concerns of life, if women at all, show that they have more good practical common-sense than men. Less implicated in theories, they judge of objects and principles more from the immediate influence of these upon the mind, than from remoter points of view, therefore more truly and naturally. They are never wanting in sense enough to know where to stop when the undertaking is a serious one; and that they will ever foolishly desire to wrestle with men for offices