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- The American Woman's Home - 72/80 -
and the income required to keep them up, would secure "Christian homes" to many suffering, neglected, homeless children of Christ, who are living in impure air, with all the debasing influences found in city tenement-houses. Meantime, the owners of this wealth are suffering in mind and body for want of some grand and noble object in life. If such could not personally live in such an establishment as is here described, by self-denying arrangements and combination with others they could provide and superintend one.
Our minds are created in the image of our Father in heaven, and capable of being made happy, as his is, by the outpouring of blessings on others. And when we are invited by our divine Lord to take his yoke and bear his burden, it is for our own highest happiness as well as for the good of others. And whoever truly obeys finds the yoke easy and the burden light, and that they bring rest to the soul. But those who shrink from the true good, to live a life of self-indulgent ease, will surely find that mere earthly enjoyments pall on the taste, that they perish in the using, that they never satisfy the cravings of a soul created for a higher sphere and nobler mission.
The Bible represents that there is an emergency-a great conflict in the world unseen-and that we on earth, who are Christ's people, are to take a part in this conflict and in the "fellowship of his sufferings," to redeem his children from the slavery of sin and eternal death; and there is the same call to labor and sacrifice now as there was when he commanded, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to _every_ creature."
But is not the larger part of the church--especially those who have wealth--practically living on no higher principles than the pious Jews and virtuous heathen? Are they not living just as if there were no great emergency, no terrible risks and danger to their fellow-men in the life to, come? Are they not living just as if all men were safe after they leave this world, and all we need to aim at is to make ourselves and others virtuous and happy in this life, without disturbing anxiety about the life to come? And is the _training_ of most Christian families diverse from that of pious Jews, in reference to the dangers of our fellow-men in the future state, and the consequent duty of labor and sacrifice in order to extend the true religion all over the earth?
One mode of avoiding self-denial in style of living is by the plea that, if all rich Christiana gave up the expensive establishments common to this class and adopted such economies as are here suggested, it would tend to lower civilization and take away support from those living by the fine arts. But while the world is rushing on to such profuse expenditure, will not all these elegancies and refinements be abundantly supported, and is there as much danger in this direction as there is of avoiding the self-denying example of Christ and his early followers? They gave up all they had, and "were scattered abroad, preaching the word;" and was there any reason existing then for self-denying labor that does not exist now? There are more idolaters and more sinful men now, in actual numbers, than there were then; while teaching them the way of eternal life does not now, as it did then, involve the "loss of all things" and "deaths often."
Moreover, would not the fine arts, in the end, he better supported by imparting culture and refined tastes to the neglected ones? Teaching industry, thrift, and benevolence is far better than scattering alms, which often do more harm than good; and would not enabling the masses to enjoy the fine arts and purchase in a moderate style subserve the interests of civilization as truly as for the rich to accumulate treasures for themselves in the common exclusive style?
Suppose some Protestant lady of culture and fortune should unite with an associate of congenial taste and benevolence to erect such a building as here described, and then devote her time and wealth to the elevation and salvation of the sinful and neglected, would she sacrifice as much as does a Lady of the Sacred Heart or a Sister of Charity, many of whom have been the daughters of princes and nobles? They resign to their clergy and superiors not only the control of their wealth but their time, labor, and conscience. In doing this, the Roman Catholic lady is honored and admired as a saint, while taught that she is doing more than her duty, and is thus laying up a store of good works to repay for her own past deficiencies, and also to purchase grace and pardon for humbler sinners. If this is really believed, how soothing to a wounded conscience! And what a strong appeal to generous and Christian feeling! And the more terrific the pictures of purgatory and hell, the stronger the appeal to these humane and benevolent principles.
But how would it be with the Protestant woman practicing such self-denial? For example, the lady of wealth and culture, who gave up her property and time to provide a home for incurables--would her pastor say she was doing _more_ than her duty? and if not, would he preach to other rich women who, in other ways, could humble themselves to raise up the poor, the ignorant, and the sinful, that they are doing _less_ than their duty?
Is it not sometimes the case, that both minister and people, by example, at least, seem to teach that, the more riches increase, the less demand there is for economy, labor, and self-denial for the benefit of the destitute and the sinful?
Protestants are little aware of the strong attractions which, are drawing pious and benevolent women toward the Roman Catholic Church, To the poor and neglected: in humble life are offered a quiet home, with sympathy, and honored work. To the refined and ambitious are offered the best society and high positions of honor and trust. To the sinful are offered pardon for past offenses and a fresh supply of "grace" for all acts of penitence or of benevolence. To the anxiously conscientious, perplexed with contentions as to doctrines and duties, are offered an infallible pope and clergy to decide what is truth and. duty, and what is the true interpretation of the Bible, while they are taught that the "faith" which saves the soul is implicit belief in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. All this enables many, even of the intelligent, to receive the other parts of a system that contradicts both common sense and the Bible.
Meantime, a highly educated priesthood, with no family ties to distract attention, are organizing and employing devoted, self-denying women, all over the land, to perform the distinctive work that Protestant women, if wisely trained and organized by their clergy, could carry out in thousands of scattered Christian homes and villages.
In the Protestant churches, women are educated only to be married; and when not married, there is no position provided which is deemed as honorable as that of a wife. But in the Roman Catholic Church, the unmarried woman who devotes herself to works of Christian benevolence is the most highly honored, and has a place of comfort and respectability provided which is suited to her education and capacity. Thus come great nunneries, with lady superiors to control conscience and labor and wealth.
But a time is coming when the family state is to be honored and ennobled by single women, qualified to sustain it by their own industries; women who will both support and train the children of their Lord and Master in the true style of Protestant independence, controlled by no superior but Jesus Christ. And in the Bible they will find the Father of the faithful, to both Jews and Gentiles, their great exemplar. For nearly one hundred years Abraham had no child of his own; but his household, whom he trained to the number of three hundred and eighteen, were children of others. And he was the friend of God, chosen to be father of many nations, because he would "command his household to do justice and judgment and keep the way of the Lord."
The woman who from true love consents to resign her independence and be supported by another, while she bears children and trains them for heaven, has a noble mission; but the woman who earns her own independence that she may train the neglected children of her Lord and Saviour has a still higher one. And a day is coming when Protestant women will be _trained_ for this their highest ministry and profession as they never yet have been.
THE CHRISTIAN NEIGHBORHOOD.
The spirit of Christian missions to heathen lands and the organizations to carry them forward commenced, in most Protestant lands, within the last century. The writer can remember the time when an annual collection for domestic missions was all the call for such benefactions in a wealthy New-England parish; while such small pittances were customary that the sight of a dollar-bill in the collection, even from the richest men of the church-members, produced a sensation.
In the intervening period since that time, the usual mode of extending the Gospel among the heathen has been for a few of the most self-sacrificing men and women to give up country and home and all the comforts and benefits of a Christian community, and then commence the family state amid such vice and debasement that it was ruinous to children to be trained in its midst. And so the result has been, in multitudes of cases, that children were born only to be sent from parents to be trained by strangers, and the true "Christian family" could not be exhibited in heathen lands. And as a Christian neighborhood, in its strictest sense, consists of a collection of Christian families, such a community has been impossible in most cases among the heathen.
[Illustration: Fig. 75]
When our Lord ascended, his last command was "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to _every_ creature." For ages, most Christian people have supposed this command was limited to the apostles. In the present day, it has been extended to Include a few men and women, who should practice the chief labor and self-sacrifice, while most of the church lived at ease, and supposed they were obeying this command, by giving a small portion of their abundance to support those who performed the chief labor and self-sacrifice.
But a time is coming when Christian churches will under stand this command in a much more comprehensive sense; and the "Christian family" and "Christian neighborhood" will be the grand ministry of salvation. In order to assist in making this a practicable anticipation, some additional drawings are given in this chapter. The aim is to illustrate one mode of commencing a Christian neighborhood that is so economical and practical that two or three ladies, with very moderate means, could carry it out.
A small church, a school-house, and a comfortable family dwelling may all be united in one building, and for a very moderate sum, as will be illustrated by the following example.
At the head of the first chapter is a sketch which represents a perspective view of the kind of edifice indicated. On the opposite page (Fig. 75) is an enlarged and more exact view of the front elevation of the same, which is now building in one of the most Southern States,
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