« PreviousContinue »
when they become a part of our new nature. When they become voluntary principles they become also freewill offerings; for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. What is as yet only in the understanding, or is regarded as matter of duty, is a debt. The relation between the Lord and man in this state is that of creditor and debtor; in the other, it is like that of father and son. When we are children, heirs, and have our inheritance within ourselves, we can offer gifts both suitable and acceptable, since they express the concord that exists between the person who offers and the Being who accepts them.
It is not, however, by rendering homage to the Lord personally, by offering Him the devotion of our love and the incense of our praise that we present our gifts to Him. We manifest our love to the Lord by showing our love to each other. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren ye have done it unto Me." In this, as in all other respects, how thoroughly practical is the religion of Jesus Christ! If faithfully followed it will never end in sentimental love or faith or piety. "He that hath My commandments and doeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” "Not every one that saith unto Me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." The religion of Jesus Christ resolves itself into, or at least ultimates itself in, doing His will, or keeping His commandments. Unless it take this form and rest on this basis it will pass into something abstract and visionary. Supposing that we clearly recognise this momentous truth, and wish to offer our gifts to our Lord and Saviour through those He condescended to call His brethren, how and to whom shall we make our offering? At this season of the year there are many who need the helping hand of kindly charity to supplement their own scanty means of sustaining life, or securing the most ordinary comforts. There is danger in indiscriminate charity. Private benevolence is best exercised within the limits of our own personal knowledge; and there are public institutions through which our gifts can be better bestowed than we can distribute them ourselves to the general mass of suffering humanity. In our own Societies, in all the larger ones at least, there is the Ladies' Benevolent Fund, from which the poorer members are supplied with what their necessities require, aid being rendered, in some cases, beyond the limits of their own body. These quiet workers, true sisterhoods of mercy and charity, deserve our best
encouragement. The good they do is not limited to the material gifts they bestow. They minister to the mind as well as to the body.
The objects of our Epiphany gifts are not necessarily limited to those who need our material help. We can all give gifts to one another. Love is precious as the gold, truth is fragrant as the frankincense, and every act of kindness is grateful as the myrrh. These are both the debts we owe and the gifts we should dispense to each other. And in giving them to each other we give to the Lord. The Lord is our neighbour. His goodness and truth in us are the principles which make us neighbours to each other. It is to these that we minister when we offer our gifts, and it is from these in ourselves that we have gifts to offer. Our gifts to each other are the reciprocations of our true thoughts and good affections. Other than these are not the golden and fragrant gifts that were represented by those presented by the wise men to the infant King. "To do good and to communicate, forget not," is an apostolic exhortation, and it ought to be the rule of our life both in temporal and spiritual things. EDITOR.
WHAT WOMEN HAVE DONE FOR THE WORLD.
THE good work done for the world, in all ages, by women of pure and noble nature, and the beneficent influence exerted by such women, often unconsciously, upon human society, are themes which, if ancient, can never become antiquated, seeing that they grow in interest every day. Now that efforts on behalf of women are taking so many new directions, it may not be useless to review the whole matter of feminine aptitudes and powers; and by contemplating what has been accomplished by women, and the aids and opportunities with which they are now so liberally furnished, to endeavour to speculate upon what may be expected from them in the future. The lesson of what women have done, the lesson also of their failures, may perhaps supply hints, more or less eligible, as to the best course to be pursued by those who espouse their cause. What they have succeeded in doing, what has been fruitful and exemplary in their lives, is at all events a delightful subject for reflection with every one who accepts the good old unimpeachable saying, that while often praised, woman is seldom or never sufficiently valued.
Before entering on a particular survey of women's powers, and of their successes in the past, it may not be amiss to pause for a moment on one or two considerations which provide somewhat of a clue to matters of special interest, but hard to understand. There is no Ariadne's thread to the whole. To attempt to penetrate to the heart of everything connected with feminine history would be vain : woman will always be, in her complexity, one of the problems waiting solution.
At the basis of all lies the stupendous fact of the Existence of man and woman—a fact simple enough to our experience, but still the grandest in the entire scope alike of biology and of sacred metaphysics. The surface of our planet was very certainly laid out as to land and water, as to its plains and mountains, rivers and the sea; planted also with fruitful trees, and a thousand sweet and nourishing vegetables, so as to serve as their comfortable abode, and to provide them with sustenance. And seeing how much enjoyment man derives from the contemplation of nature, his happiness as an intellectual being would seem to have been as certainly had in view when "scenery" was introduced, when sunsets, and odours, and the song of birds became a part also of nature, with the sevenfold loveliness of flowers, ferns, mosses, and all the rest of the green bijouterie which, looked at and studied lovingly, trebles the span of human life. Truly "He formed it to be inhabited." How much, again, results from the existence of man and woman! Art, science, religion, trade, commerce, literature, everything our planet witnesses that has intellect in it, comes of their dual energy: the record of their doings constitutes "history; ""the future "" means what will man and woman
The majestic fact that men and women are, leads up on the instant to Why are they? Obviously the prime object in the creation of mankind is not to be sought in connection with terrestrial things. If it were, we should not disappear so soon. Men and women exist, not for any final purpose to be answered here, but in order that they shall live a grander and more glorious life hereafter. We cannot suppose the Almighty, who is infinite and perfect Love, to have had any design in the creation of mankind inconsistent with His own supremest attribute; and this, on the first principles of Divine order, disclosed to us in so many ways, must needs be that he shall exist for ever, in a condition of absolute happiness. Man is not called upon to inquire why that glorious purpose could not have been
directly assured, i.e. by creating him as an angel originally. To argue or surmise at any time as to what the Almighty might have done, or could have done, borders very closely upon the profane. Our sole concern is with what in His immeasurable and munificent love and wisdom it has pleased Him to do. Resting in this, and assured that whatever it may be, it is the best for us, there is no harm in reverently seeking to comprehend, in the light of His most Holy Word, why His work has taken the particular form in which we may find it expressed; and as regards the brief preliminary existence of Man upon the face of the earth, very little reflection is needed to perceive that sublimest conditions are always secured through the medium of a noble and faithful progression towards them. Seeing that it has pleased the Almighty so to order it, man will be incomparably more happy in the future state through having passed through terrestrial preliminaries. The special substance of those preliminaries is set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. See how charmingly the great canon that the best can be reached only through intermediates is declared in nature! Apples come of apple-bloom; the bloom comes of the previous activity of the stem and leaves; and the stem and leaves began as a seedling. The butterfly that mounts aloft on its gallant and empurpled pinions began as a simple grub among the foliage of some trifling herb. The shell, lined with rosy pearl, left by the retiring tide upon the sands, owes its beginning to a microscopic atom of living jelly.
But why so many men and women? And why so various in feeling, thought, and character? Earthly life, which in countless ways, when noble and pure, is so exquisite a prototype and herald of the heavenly, tells us that a principle so glorious as the gift of celestial happiness never to cease cannot be limited in its operation. Once at work, it can never stop. Mankind was placed upon the earth primarily to "subdue it, to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" to be in himself "fruitful, to multiply, and replenish the earth." But the purpose to which all this is antecedent is that there shall be endless augmentation of the "multitudes of heaven." Man exists in myriads, not in the last intent because of the visible earth upon which he dwells a while, but because of the "many mansions " which await him. If in our terrestrial or temporary state of existence so much enjoyment is derived from communion with the amiable, the reverent, the philosophic, the gracefully well-informed, how incon
ceivably more ample and grand the enjoyment to arise from angelic consociation! To talk with two or three such spirits is in this present life deemed a privilege. How far grander when augmented a thousandfold, in the days when, as the old Romans were accustomed to say, we shall have "gone over to the majority." The organization of the sexes, considered apart from each other, and the sequence of generations, provides for perpetual additions to the numbers of those inhabiting the promised "city." Their spiritual qualities—or those respectively of the "head" and "heart" so called-provide for the development in perfection of the capacity to enter and enjoy it. Contemplated from the only standpoint we possess, it would seem that, just as the sexes are reciprocally indispensable to the continued peopling of the earth, so are they indispensable reciprocally towards each other in regard to the development and maturation in each of the character that realizes heaven. To qualify men and women for this inexpressibly sweet and glorious reciprocity of help in regard to all that is identified with preparation for the future life, is the superb function of the Educators of the human race. The education of women ought to be as much an object of profound thought, constant solicitude, private care, and perhaps even public policy, as the education of men. But remembering that all nature is dual in principles and composition, and that it is by the action and reaction of complementaries, each assisting the other, that all great and living results are attained, it is equally true that what educators of girls have to aim at is to lead them up into the moral beauty of all that is nonmasculine, so that they may so much the more fitly co-operate, in maturer years, with men, whose boyhood, after the same manner, should be so disciplined and directed as to render them, when mature, absolutely non-effeminate. The greater the difference produced by education in men and women, not alone for the ultimate spiritual welfare of each (which is the prime consideration), but for their temporal advantage, and, not the less difference, so much the better for both. The assiduous contention by many advocates of "women's rights," that all avocations are fitted for both sexes, and that all functions, whether domestic or public, belong of natural right to both, is radically wrong. To neither sex would result of effort towards the establishment of this doctrine be ennobling or elevating; it would be the reverse of economical, and could hardly fail to be unkind. The chief functions of man and woman are to be mediums towards each other of special forms of life communicated to them, for this