Lucy H.M. Soulsby.

Stray Thoughts for Girls online

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obedience, for the servant accepts with blind obedience this or that rule
spoken by his master; the friend, the son, strives to understand "his
father's innermost mind." He may or may not be convinced that certain
words spoken on Mount Sinai, about the Jewish Sabbath, were intended to
refer to the Christian Sunday; but, in either case, he realizes the nature
of the spiritual life, and perceives that worship and thought and time are
essential to it. He sees that the old Jewish rule tends to develop this
spiritual life, and therefore, until he finds a better way, he feels it
morally binding on himself; not because it was a Jewish rule, but because
it assists his own growth.

Suppose a master admired a bed of lilies and said, "Let me always find
some here;" if a landslip destroyed that bed, a slave might feel absolved
from further trouble about lilies, but the son would say, "No; we can give
my father what he wants by growing them elsewhere - it was not so much the
bed, as the lilies, that he really cared for."

God will look in us for the lilies of peace and spiritual-mindedness,
which only grow where there is what the old Babylonians called "a Sabbath
of the heart." Are we to feel absolved from responding to His demand
because old Jewish ways have vanished? When St. Paul speaks so slightingly
of "times and seasons and Sabbaths," does he mean that the worship and
meditation belonging to such seasons were valueless? No; he is rather
saying, "How can you think that our Father values, not the lilies, but
only the fact of their growing on this or that bit of earth?"

Every day, landslips are altering the features of God's great garden - this
present world. We can no longer rely on definite instructions to plant in
this or that place; many circumstances, as yet unborn, may hinder it. But
we must get it well into our minds that the Master will certainly come
down into His garden to ask for lilies, and that we must plant without
delay; tools and methods may be improved upon, certain aspects which are
now favourable may be deprived of sun by future buildings, but let us
clearly realize that the end and object of having a garden is to grow
flowers, though ways and means may vary with the times.

It is much easier to follow rules than to be inspired with the burning
desire to produce flowers and the moral thoughtfulness which uses the best
methods of the day.

But you can less well afford to do without moral thoughtfulness now than
you could have done a generation ago. Thirty years ago a woman's path was
hedged in by signposts and by-laws, and danger-signals, to which she
attended as a matter of course; to-day, she has to find her way across a
moorland with uncertain tracks, which she may desert at will. She needs to
know something of the stars to guide her now - she needs nobler and deeper
teaching than in the days of convenances and chaperons.

At present you have your home ways to guide, but you will find Sunday vary
in almost every house you stay in, and when you marry you will have to set
the tone of a household; if you are to keep Sunday rightly in the future,
you must learn now to value it rightly, and that means moral
thoughtfulness, - a realization of our need of an inner life and of what
that inner life requires for its sustenance, and an appreciation of the
teaching of the Church Catechism, which tells us that our duty to God
begins with Worship.

What can we say as to the positive duty of keeping Sunday? We can hardly
say we are literally bound by the Jewish Sabbath, since, for Jewish
Christians, the Sabbath and Sunday existed for some time side by side, as
separate institutions; Sunday being a day of united worship, while the
Sabbath supplied retirement from the world.

Gentiles kept Sunday only; but gradually there were incorporated into it
all the spiritual elements of the Sabbath. In this point, as in all
others, the underlying eternal meaning of the Law was recoined and
reissued by Christianity; no jot or tittle of its spirit passed away.

In "The English Sunday,"[4] by Canon Bernard, you will find a short sketch
of the history of the day; its universal acceptance through the decree of
Constantine, which organized the popular custom of a weekly holiday; the
resistance of Luther and Calvin to any idea of being bound by the Jewish
Sabbath; the Anglican idea of Church Services combined with the Book of
Sports; the Puritan idea of a day of retirement from worldly business and
amusement; and, finally, the gradual acceptance of this last idea by the
English national conscience, so that High Churchmen, like Law and Nelson,
echoed the Puritan ideal, and the average business Englishman accepted it
as the right thing.

I am convinced that the vigour of the nation and the health of our own
souls depends on keeping Sunday, - not only by going to Church, but by so
arranging it that we get into an unworldly atmosphere, and have leisure
for the thought and reading which develop our spiritual nature.

Such a Sunday is the development of the Fourth Commandment, keeping it in
the spirit though not in the letter.

I am inclined to think that the Fourth Commandment is the most important
of all: if that is faithfully observed - if we spend due time in God's
Presence looking at things as He does, judging ourselves by His
standard - then the rest of our lives must in time get raised to the level
of those "golden hours;" we are as certain to improve as a person who
regularly goes up into bracing air is certain to grow stronger.

Bishop Wordsworth's hymn suggests the highest lines on which to take the
subject, and I would ask, are you specially careful to come to breakfast
full of sunshine on Sunday mornings, as on a "day of rest and gladness"?
Is it a cooling fountain to you? Do you soak yourself enough in good
thoughts to be more soothed and peaceful than you were on Saturday? Was
last Sunday a Pisgah's mountain? - did you cast so much as a glance at the
promised Land, at what will make the true joy of Heaven, the being like
Christ? did you seriously think over where you were unlike Him and where
you could be more like Him in the coming week? "New graces ever
gaining:" - did you gain any grace at all last Sunday - or would this week
have been exactly the same if Sunday had been wiped out? Make up a prayer,
for Saturday's use, on the ideas in this hymn, or use the hymn in your
prayers, as inspiration on Saturday night and as self-examination on
Sunday night.

Sunday should, as the Warden of Keble says, be a day of new plans for
using the coming week better than we did the last, and this implies quiet
time for thoughtfully considering both the past and the coming week. On
Sunday we should breathe different air and see weekday vexations from a
Sunday point of view.

Our Sunday reading may well include all that is referred to in Phil. iv.
8: "Whatsoever things are noble." I would not say this or that book is
wrong on Sunday - a book which is good on Saturday does not become bad on
Sunday, but, as is the case with many excellent weekday employments, it
may very well be a misuse of Sunday time, because we could be doing
something better. I strongly advise you to make your Sunday books - and as
far as possible all your Sunday habits - different from those of the week,
if only to give yourself a chance of getting out of grooves, of getting
that complete change of air which is so conducive to a new start in one's
inner life and mental vigour. Lord Lawrence's Life would be splendid
Sunday reading, but if you are reading it in the week, you would be wise
to put it away on Sunday in favour of a change of air.

It is quite possible that you are busy on Sunday, sometimes a father or
brothers, hard at work all the week, want you to amuse them on Sunday. Or
you may be busy with Sunday-school or Classes, which equally prevents the
personal keeping of Sunday, while many household arrangements may make an
old-fashioned Sunday impossible. (Let those who can have it be thankful
instead of rebelling at its dulness!)

At the same time, I would suggest that the very young men for whose sake
you are making the sacrifice - (the sacrifice of doing things which amuse
you as much as them, sometimes more, since a young man occasionally likes
to lie in a hammock and read, without having the girls always
about) - those very young men need Sunday quiet whether they desire it or
not.

Would it not be well also, if you do have games, to keep to those which
allow of talk if the impulse comes, since a Sunday talk is often a help,
and whether or no it is combined with boating or golf.

I do not say to you, stand out against household ways and make yourself
disagreeable by carrying out a Puritan Sunday - the only kind I believe in.
No; surely that would be a very unchristlike way of spending Sunday.

But every girl knows the difference between helping to make a pleasant
family circle and lounging idly through the day in self-indulgent gossip
and games. You must do what others do, and yet you must have a clear plan
of the reading and prayer and thinking which is right for you personally.
If you cannot do it at one time on Sunday, find another, or else get it
done on Saturday. Nearly every one could find time for Sunday duties, only
you would rather not, because they are dull. I am not surprised, it is not
natural to like them till the spiritual nature is alive in you, but that
will never be until you force yourself to take this spiritual food as a
duty, or rather, as essential to your life.

"A Sabbath well spent
Brings a week of content
And strength for the toils of the morrow."

Those are very old words by Sir Matthew Hale: I know them framed in the
hall of an old-fashioned country house, and they bring back to me rest and
quiet, and sweet sounds and scents - the bowl of roses and the pretty old
chintz on the sofa just under the words.

I hope Sunday-like Sundays are not only to be found in old houses, but we
all feel that Sunday quiet is likely to be the first thing sacrificed in
the rush and bustle of modern life. But if we have no time to eat, we
cannot keep up to working pitch, we lose vitality: if we have no time for
spiritual food, our souls lose vitality, and unfortunately starvation of
the soul is a painless process, so we may unconsciously be getting weaker
and weaker spiritually.

You are regularly on your knees night and morning, but are you ever two
minutes alone with God? - and yet "being silent to God" - alone with
Him - is, humanly speaking, the only condition on which He can "mould
us."[5] I am so afraid that the lawful pleasures and even the commanded
duties of life, let alone its excitements and cravings, will eat out your
possibilities of spirituality and saintliness: it is so easy to float on
the stream of life with others - so terribly hard to come, you yourself,
alone into a desert place to listen to those words out of the mouth of
God, by which only your individual life can be fed. The self-denials of
Lent are comparatively easy, but to gain that quietness, which Bishop Gore
says is "the essence of Lent," is a hard struggle at all times of the
year. Do not let any one think, "this is all very well for quiet homes,
but I cannot be expected to act on it, since 'the week-end' is always so
busy." It would be very unpractical to say, day after day, "I cannot be
expected, for this and that excellent reason, to eat my dinner to-day."
You would soon find it advisable, for your own sake, to find some time at
which you _could_ eat. I do not say, though it would be true, "it is a sin
to break the Sabbath, and, in order to avoid God's anger, you must go to
Church and read good books;" - I say, "for your own sake, you _cannot
afford_ to neglect these things, and if you cannot find time on Sunday, it
will be not only a crime but a blunder if you do not make time on Saturday
or Monday." I only say, "if you do not eat enough to keep you alive, you
will die; and if you do not feed on the Word of God, your soul will
shrivel away."

Dante saw some souls in hell whose bodies were still alive on
earth, - their friends in Florence and Lucca had not the faintest idea that
these men, seemingly a part of everyday life, were, all the time, "dead
souls." There is hardly a more terrible idea in all that terrible book,
and yet it is a possibility in our own daily life - this atrophy of the
spiritual nature, corresponding to the atrophy of the poetical nature
which Darwin noted in himself as due to his own neglect. Mr. Clifford, in
"A Likely Story," forcibly depicts a soul awaking in the next world to
find that through this unconscious starvation, there was no longer
anything in him to correspond with God. "The possibility of death is
involved in our Lord's words about the power of living by the Word of
God."

Sometimes we are too tired to keep Sunday properly, and we give to
"private sloth the time which was meant for public worship;" but surely
then the Sabbath breaking lay really in the week's excess of work. If we
allow ourselves to live so hard in the week, to be so late on Saturday,
that we are sleepy and stupid on Sunday morning, then we are not keeping
the Fourth Commandment, even if we force ourselves to go to Church; we are
not serving God with a fair share of our mind and strength.

In these over-worked days of nerve exhaustion, it should be an inducement
to remember how fresh and unwearied Mr. Gladstone was kept by his regular
Sunday habits. He said, "Sunday I reserve for religious employments, and
this has kept me alive and well, even to a marvel, in time of considerable
labour. We are born on each Lord's day morning into a new climate, where
the lungs and heart of the Christian life should drink in continuously the
vital air."

Retreats and Rest-cures are nowadays found to be imperatively necessary;
but are not both symptoms of something over-wrought in our system? Would
it not be well for some if they tried, as Miss Wordsworth suggests, the
effect of keeping one Sunday in the week?

I do not wish to dwell on the unselfish side of the question - the moral
obligation of keeping to those forms of entertainment and games which give
as little trouble as possible to servants, - I am sure that needs no
enforcing on a generous mind.

Neither do I wish to discuss what employments are suitable for Sunday,
though I should like to draw your attention to a suggestion, in the Bishop
of Salisbury's Guild Manual, that Sunday letters should always, as a
matter of principle, have some Sunday element in them, and that we should
refrain from writing to people with whom we were not on this footing. How
often our Sunday letters only clear our writing-table, that it may be
freer for Monday's business!

Neither do I speak of our duty to God in the matter of worship, nor of the
definite rules as to church-going which each must make for herself, if her
religion is not to vary with every house she stays in; I do not speak of
the obligation binding on every member of the Church to conform to her
Church's regulations as to united worship. Every one of these points need
a chapter to itself, and I wish to keep to a single point which seems in
great danger of being neglected in this hurrying age, when there is such
terrible likelihood that we may "never once possess our souls before we
die."

It is not the duty of keeping Sunday on which I want to lay stress, but
the fact that we dare not, for our own safety's sake, neglect it. Our
moral thoughtfulness, our spiritual growth, the very existence of our
inner life, depends on our obtaining a sufficient supply of the air of
Heaven to keep our souls alive. To use Dean Church's words: "On the way in
which we spend our Sundays depends, for most of us, the depth, the
reality, the steadiness, of our spiritual life."

[Footnote 4: Methuen. 1_s. 6d._]

[Footnote 5: "Be silent to God, and let Him mould thee." - Ps. xxxvii. 7.]




Friendship and Love.

"The fountains of my hidden life
Are through thy friendship fair."


No word in our language has a nobler meaning than "friendship;" it is a
pity that none is more often abused. Every hasty intimacy formed by force
of circumstances - often merely by force of living next door - is dignified
with the title; but a deeper bond is needed to make a real friendship. "By
true friendship," says Jeremy Taylor, "I mean the greatest love, and the
greatest usefulness, and the most open communication, and the noblest
suffering, and the most exemplary faithfulness, and the severest truth,
and the heartiest counsel, and the greatest union of minds of which brave
men and women are capable."

"Friendship is the perfection of love," says the Proverb, and a certain
James Colebrooke and Mary his wife, buried in Chilham churchyard, seem to
have been of this mind, for the climax of their long epitaph is, that they
"lived for forty-seven years in the greatest friendship."

Proverbs on this subject abound, and teach varied lessons: "A faithful
friend is the medicine of life;" but it would seem to act differently on
different constitutions, for, on the one hand, we are told, "a Father is a
Treasure, a Brother is a Comforter, a Friend is both;" on the other, we
hear the familiar exclamation, "Save me from my friends!" which is
justified by experience from the times of Aristides downwards, and is
endorsed by Solomon, when he said, "He that blesseth his friend with a
loud voice rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to
him;" - words of which the wisdom will be felt by all who know what it is
to feel unreasoning prejudice against some unoffending person, solely
because of the excessive praise of some injudicious friend. Yet none the
less are we bound to defend our friends behind their backs and to set them
in a fair light. If we cannot aspire generally to St. Theresa's title of
"Advocate of the Absent," honour demands that we should at least earn it
with regard to our friends: though it requires infinite tact to avoid
making your friend fatiguing, if not distasteful, to your listener in so
doing. For Tact, as well as Honour, is a necessary condition of
friendship, in speaking both of, and to, your friend. In this matter of
tact, Courtesy covers a large part of the ground.

"We have careful thought for the stranger,
And smiles for the some time guest,
But we grieve our own
With look and tone,
Though we love our own the best."

This applies most to brothers and sisters, but also to friends; it takes
the delicate edge from friendship if we think ourselves absolved from the
minor courtesies of manner and speech.

We often say pretty things to an acquaintance, and omit them to a friend,
"because she knows us, and we need not be ceremonious." But ceremony is
not half such a bad thing as this age seems to think; it may be overdone,
but so may its opposite. Why should we not give our friend the pleasure of
this or that acknowledgment of her powers, which a stranger would give
her, but which she would value far more from us, even though she "knows we
know" it? Saying those things makes the wheels of life's chariot run
smoothly, - we think them, why are we so slow to say them? Why should "the
privilege of a friend" be synonymous with a cutting remark? Why should we
all have reason to feel that "friend" might, without any violation of
truth, be substituted for the last word in that acute remark on the "fine
frankness about unpleasant truths which marks the relative"? Well might
Bob Jakes say, "Lor, miss, it's a fine thing to hev' a dumb brute fond o'
yer! it sticks to yer and makes no jaw." This question of making no "jaw"
is rather a vexed one. Most people's experience would lead them to attend
to a canny Dutch proverb, which observes that a "friend's" faults may be
noticed but not blamed: since the consequences of blaming them are mostly
unpleasant; but a braver proverb says, "A true friend dares sometimes
venture to be offensive;" and we read that it is our duty to "admonish a
friend; it may be that he hath not said it, and, if he have, that he speak
it not again." But this earnest remonstrance which is sometimes required
of us is very different from the small, nagging, and somewhat impertinent
criticisms which pass so freely between many friends. But defending an
absent friend is not the only point of honour essential in true
friendship. At the present time the Roman virtues seem somewhat at a
discount, - they are suspected of a flavour of Paganism; it is more in
accordance with the Genius of our Age to show our interest in our friend
by talking over his moral and spiritual condition (and _par parenthèse_,
all his other affairs) with a sympathizing circle, than to heed the
old-fashioned idea, "He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the
matter." How often do we hear, "I wouldn't, for the world, tell any one
but you, but - ;" and then follows a string of repeated confidences which
the friend under discussion would writhe to hear; yet the speaker would be
most indignant at being considered dishonourable, because "it was only
said to So-and-so, which is _so_ different from saying it to any one
else"! The Son of Sirach made no exception in favour of "So-and-so" when
he said, "Rehearse not unto another that which is told unto thee, and thou
shall fare never the worse." If it be true of a wife, that "a silent and
loving woman is a gift of the Lord," I am sure it is no less so of a
friend; in friendship, as in most relations of life, silence, in its
season, is a cardinal virtue.

Girls are often tempted to retail their family affairs to some chosen
friend, from a love of confidential mysteries; the pleasure of being a
martyr leads not only to the communication of moving details of home life,
but frequently to their invention. A friend of mine adopted a niece, who
afterwards married and wrote from India asking her aunt to look through
and burn her old letters. My friend found touching pictures of home
tyranny in the letters from school friends and answers to similar
complaints, which the niece had evidently written about her own treatment
and since forgotten; possibly the home circles of the other girls would
have found the same difficulty that my friend did in recognizing
themselves:

"Portrayed with sooty garb and features swarth."

Equal with Honour, and before Tact, among the conditions of Friendship, I
would place Truth, for there can be no union without this for a basis. We
have touched already on the truth involved in what is called being
"faithful" to a friend, but there are many other kinds required. Passing
over the more obvious of these, I would draw attention to the subtler form
of untruth, involved in endowing your friend with imaginary gifts and
graces.

Yet the more we know of a true friend, the more we find to reverence in
him, and the more ground for humility in ourselves: "Have a quick eye to
see" their virtues; nay, more, idealize those virtues as much as you will,
for this is a very different thing from endowing them with those they have
not; this is only learning to see with that divine insight essential to
the highest truth in friendship. "There is a perfect ideal," says Ruskin,
"to be wrought out of every human face around us," and so it is with our
friends' characters.

And when we have found that ideal and true self, we must be loyal to
it - loyal to our friends against their lower selves as well as against
their detractors. Plutarch says, "The influence of a true friend is felt
in the help that he gives the noble part of nature; nothing that is weak
or poor meets with encouragement from him. While the flatterer fans every
spark of suspicion, envy, or grudge, he may be described in the verse of
Sophocles as 'sharing the love and not the hatred of the person he cares
for.'" Such a bit as that makes us forget the centuries which have rolled
between us and Plutarch; his temptations are ours - how much easier it is
to us to please our friends by sympathizing with their feelings, whether
that feeling be right or wrong! How much pleasanter it is to us to gratify
our selfish affection by giving them what they want, as Wentworth did King
Charles, than to brace them to endure hardness for the sake of others!

We are so apt to give and to ask for weakening consolation. Sympathy in
the ordinary use of the term is more weakening than anything, and it is
pleasant to give and to take.

But sympathy should be like bracing air: "no friendship is worth the name
which does not inspire new and stronger views of duty." We all care to be
sons of consolation, - let us see to it that we brace others instead of


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