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thought amiable by strangers may be too dearly purchased, if it be purchased at the expense of truth and simplicity : remember, that Simplicity is the first charm in manner, as Truth is in mind; and could Truth make herself visible, she would appear invested in Simplicity.
Remember, also, that true Christian good nature is the soul, of which politeness is only the garb. It is not that artificial quality which is taken up by many when they go into society, in order to charm those whom it is not their particular business to please; and is laid down when they return home to those to whom to appear amiable is a real duty. It is not that fascinating but deceitful softness, which, after having acted over a hundred scenes of the most lively sympathy and tender interest with every slight acquaintance; after having exhausted every phrase of feeling, for the trivial sicknesses or petty sorrows of multitudes who are scarcely known, leaves it doubtful whether a grain of real feeling or genuine sympathy be reserved for the dearest connections: and which dismisses a woman to her immediate friends with little affection, and to her own family with little attachment.
True good nature, that which alone deserves the name, is not a holiday ornament, but an everyday habit. It does not consist in servile complaisance, or dishonest flattery, or affected sympathy, or unqualified assent, or unwarrantable compliance, or eternal smiles. Before it can be allowed to rank with the virtues, it must be wrought up from a humour into a principle, from an occasional disposition into a habit. It must be the result of an equal and well-governed mind, not the start of casual gaiety, the trick of designing vanity, or the whim of capricious fondness. It is compounded of kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, and self-denial ; “ it seeketh not its own,” but is capable of making continual sacrifices of its own tastes, humours, and self-love; yet it knows that among the sacrifices it makes it must never include its integrity. Politeness on the one hand, and Insensibility on the other, assume its name, and wear its honours; but they assume the honours of a triumph, without the merit of a victory; for Politeness subdues nothing, and Insensibility has nothing to subdue. Good nature of the true cast, and under the foregoing regulations, is above all price in the common intercourse of domestic society; for an ordinary quality, which is constantly brought into action by the perpetually recurring, though minute, events of daily life, is of higher value than more brilliant qualities which are less frequently called into use: as small pieces of ordinary current coin are of more importance in the commerce of the world than the medals of the antiquary. And, indeed, Christianity has given that new turn to the character of all the virtues, that perhaps it is the best test of the excellence of many, that they have little brilliancy in them. The Christian religion has at once degraded some splendid qualities from the rank which they held, and elevated those which were obscure into distinction.
ON THE DANGER OF AN ILL-DIRECTED SENSIBILITY.
In considering the human mind with a view to its improvement, it is prudent to endeavour to discover the natural bent of the individual character; and having found it, to direct your force against that side on which the warp lies, that you may lessen by counteraction the defect which, by applying your aid in a contrary direction, you might be promoting. But the misfortune is, people who mean better than they judge, are apt to take up a set of general rules, good, perhaps, in themselves, and originally gleaned from experience and observation on the nature of human things, but not applicable in all cases. These rules they keep by them as nostrums of universal efficacy, which they therefore often bring out for use in cases to which they do not apply. For to make any remedy effectual, it is not enough to know the medicine, you must study the constitution also; if there be not a congruity between the two, you may be injuring one patient by the very means which are requisite to raise and restore another.
In forming the female character, it is of importance that those on whom the task devolves should possess so much penetration as accurately to discern the degree of sensibility, and so much judg
ment as to accommodate the treatment to the individual character. By constantly stimulating and extolling feelings naturally quick, those feelings will be rendered too acute and irritable. On the other hand, a calm and equable temper will become obtuse by the total want of excitement: the former treatment converts the feelings into a source of error, agitation, and calamity; the latter starves their native energy, deadens the affections, and produces a cold, dull, selfish spirit: for the human mind is an instrument which will lose its sweetness if strained too high, and will be deprived of its tone and strength if not sufficiently raised.
It is cruel to chill the precious sensibility of an ingenuous soul, by treating with supercilious coldness and unfeeling ridicule every indication of a warm, tender, disinterested, and enthusiastic spirit, as if it exhibited symptoms of a deficiency in understanding or in prudence. How many are apt to intimate, with a smile of mingled pity and contempt, in considering such a character, that when she knows the world, that is, in other words, when she shall be grown cunning, selfish, and suspicious, she will be ashamed of her present glow of honest warmth, and of her lovely susceptibility of heart. May she never know the world, if the knowledge of it must be acquired at such an expense ! But to sensible hearts, every indication of genuine feeling will be dear, for they well know that it is this temper which, by the guidance of the Divine Spirit, may make her one day become more enamoured of the beauty of holiness; which, with the
co-operation of principle, and under its direction, will render her the lively agent of Providence in diminishing the misery that is in the world; into which misery this temper will give her a quicker intuition than colder characters possess. It is this temper which, when it is touched and purified by a “ live coal from the altar*,” will give her a keener taste for the spirit of religion, and a quicker zeal in discharging its duties. But let it be remembered, likewise, that as there is no quality in the female character which more raises its tone, so there is none which will be so likely to endanger the peace, and to expose the virtue of the possessor; none which requires to have its luxuriances more carefully watched, and its wild shoots more closely lopped.
For young women of affections naturally warm, but not carefully disciplined, are in danger of incurring an unnatural irritability; and while their happiness falls a victim to the excess of uncontrolled feelings, they are liable at the same time to indulge a vanity, of all others the most preposterous, that of being vain of their very defect. They have heard sensibility highly commended, without having heard any thing of those bounds and fences which were intended to confine it, and without having been imbued with that principle which would have given it a beneficial direction. Conscious that they possess the quality itself in the extreme, and not aware that they want all that makes that quality safe and delightful, they plunge
* Isaiah, vi. 6.