Read LETTER I - CONTENTMENT of The Young Lady's Mentor, free online book, by A Lady, on ReadCentral.com.

It is, perhaps, only the young who can be very hopefully addressed on the present subject. A few years hence, and your habits of mind will be unalterably formed; a few years hence, and your struggle against a discontented spirit, even should you be given grace to attempt it, would be a perpetually wearisome and discouraging one. The penalty of past sin will pursue you until the end, not only in the pain caused by a discontented habit of mind, but also in the consciousness of its exceeding sinfulness.

Every thought that rebels against the law of God involves its own punishment in itself, by contributing to the establishment of habits that increase tenfold the difficulties to which a sinful nature exposes us.

Discontent is in this, perhaps, more dangerous than many other sins, being far less tangible: unless we are in the constant habit of exercising strict watchfulness over our thoughts, it is almost insensibly that they acquire an habitual tendency to murmuring and repining.

This is particularly to be feared in a person of your disposition. Many of your volatile, thoughtless, worldly-minded companions, destitute of all your holier feelings, living without object or purpose in life, and never referring to the law of God as a guide for thought or action, may nevertheless manifest a much more contented disposition than your own, and be apparently more submissive to the decision of your Creator as to the station of life in which you have each been placed.

To account for their apparent superiority over you on this point, it must be remembered that it is one of the dangerous responsibilities attendant on the best gifts of God, that if not employed according to his will, they turn to the disadvantage of the possessor.

Your powers of reflection, your memory, your imagination, all calculated to provide you with rich sources of gratification if exercised in proper directions, will turn into curses instead of blessings if you do not watchfully restrain that exercise within the sphere of duty. The natural tendency of these faculties is, to employ themselves on forbidden ground, for “every imagination of man’s heart is evil continually.” It is thus that your powers of reflection may only serve to give you a deeper and keener insight into the disadvantages of your position in life; and trivial circumstances, unpleasant probabilities, never dwelt on for a moment by the gay and thoughtless, will with you acquire a serious and fatal importance, if you direct towards them those powers of reasoning and concentrated thought which were given to you for far different purposes.

And while, on the one hand, your memory, if you allow it to acquire the bad habits against which I am now warning you, will be perpetually refreshing in your mind vivid pictures of past sorrows, wrongs, and annoyances: your imagination, at the same time, will continually present to you, under the most exaggerated forms, and in the most striking colours, every possible unpleasantness that is likely to occur in the future. You may thus create for yourself a life apart, quite distinct from the real one, depriving yourself by wilful self-injury of the power of enjoying whatever advantages, successes, and pleasures, your heavenly Father may think it safe for you to possess.

Happiness, as far as it can be obtained in the path of duty, is a duty in itself, and an important one: without that degree of happiness which most people may secure for themselves, independent of external circumstances, neither health, nor energy, nor cheerfulness can be forthcoming to help us through the task of our daily duties.

It is indeed true, that, under the most favourable circumstances, the thoughtful will never enjoy so much as others of that which is now generally understood by the word happiness. Anxieties must intrude upon them which others know nothing of: the necessary business of life, to be as well executed as they ought to execute it, must at times force down their thoughts to much that is painful for the present and anxious for the future. They cannot forget the past, as the light-hearted do, or life would bring them no improvement; but the same difficulties and dangers would be rushed into heedlessly to-morrow, that were experienced yesterday, and forgotten to-day; and not only past difficulties and dangers are remembered, but sorrows too: these they cannot, for they would not, forget.

In the contemplation of the future also, they must exercise their imagination as well as their reason, for the discovery of those evils and dangers which such foresight may enable them to guard against: all this kind of thoughtfulness is their wisdom as well as their instinct; which makes it more difficult for them than it is for others to fulfil the reverse side of the duty, and to “be careful for nothing."

To your strong mind, however, a difficulty will be a thing to be overcome, and you may, if you only will it, be prudent and sagacious, far-sighted and provident, without dwelling for a moment longer than such duties require on the unpleasantnesses, past, present, and future, of your lot in life.

Having thus seen in what respects your superiority of mind is likely to detract from your happiness, in the point of the colouring given by your thoughts to your life, let us, on the other hand, consider how this same superiority may be so directed as to make your thoughts contribute to your happiness, instead of detracting from it.

I spoke first of your reasoning powers. Let them not be exercised only in discovering the dangers and disadvantages likely to attend your peculiar position in life; let them rather be directed to discover the advantages of those very features of your lot which are most opposed to your natural inclinations. Consider, in the first place, what there may be to reconcile you to the secluded life you so unwillingly lead. Withdrawn, indeed, you are from society, from the delightful intercourse of refined and intellectual minds: you hear of such enjoyments at a distance; you hear of their being freely granted to those who cannot appreciate them as you could, (safely granted to them for perhaps this very reason.) You have no opportunity of forming those friendships, so earnestly desired by a young and enthusiastic mind; of admiring, even at a reverential distance, “emperors of thought and hand.” But then, as a compensation, you ought to consider that you are, at the same time, freed from those intrusions which wear away the time, and the spirits, and the very powers of enjoyment, of those who are placed in a more public position than your own. When you do, at rare intervals, enjoy any intercourse with congenial minds, it has for you a pleasurable excitement, a freshness of delight, which those who mix much and habitually in literary and intellectual society have long ceased to enjoy: while the powers of your own mind are preserving all that originality and energy for which no intellectual experience can compensate, you are saved the otherwise perhaps inevitable danger of adopting, parrot-like, the tastes and opinions of others who may indeed be your superiors, but who, in a copy, become wretchedly inferior to your real self. Time you have, too, to cultivate your mind in such a manner, and to such a degree, as may fit you to grace any society of the kind I have described; while those who are early and constantly engaged in this society are often obliged, from mere want of this precious possession, to copy others, and resign all identity and individuality. To you, nobly free as you are from the vice of envy, I may venture to suggest another consideration, viz. the far greater influence you possess in your present small sphere of intellectual intercourse, than if you were mixed up with a crowd of others, most of them your equals, many your superiors.

If you have few opportunities of forming friendships, those few are tenfold more valuable than many acquaintance, among a crowd of whom, whatever merits you or they might possess, little time could be spared to discover, or experimentally appreciate them. The one or two friends whom you now love, and know yourself beloved by, might, in more exciting and busy scenes, have gone on meeting you for years without discovering the many bonds of sympathy which now unite you. In the seclusion you so much deplore, they and you have been given time to “deliberate, choose, and fix:” the conclusion of the poet will probably be equally applicable, you will “then abide till death." Such friends are possessions rare and valuable enough to make amends to you for any sacrifices by which they have been acquired.

Another of your grievances, one which presses the more heavily on those of graceful tastes, refined habits, and generous impulses, is the very small proportion of this world’s goods which has fallen to your lot. You are perpetually obliged to deny yourself in matters of taste, of self-improvement, of charity. You cannot procure the books, the paintings, you wish for the instruction which you so earnestly desire, and would so probably profit by. Above all, your eyes are pained by the sight of distress you cannot relieve; and you are thus constantly compelled to control and subdue the kindest and warmest impulses of your generous nature. The moral benefits of this peculiar species of trial belong to another part of my subject: the present object is to find out the most favourable point of view in which to contemplate the unpleasantness of your lot, merely with relation to your temporal happiness. Look, then, around you; and, even in your own limited sphere of observation, it cannot but strike you, that those who derive most enjoyment from objects of taste, from books, paintings, &c., are exactly those who are situated as you are, who cannot procure them at will. It is certain that there is something in the difficulty of attainment which adds much to the preciousness of the objects we desire; much, too, in the rareness of their bestowal. When, after long waiting, and by means of prudent management, it is at last within your power to make some long-desired object your own, does it not bestow much greater pleasure than it does on those who have only to wish and to have?

In matters of charity this is still more strikingly true the pleasure of bestowing ease and comfort on the poor and distressed is enhanced tenfold by the consciousness of having made some personal sacrifice for its attainment. The rich, those who give of their superfluities, can never fully appreciate what the pleasures of almsgiving really are.

Experience teaches that the necessity of scrupulous economy is the very best school in which those who are afterwards to be rich can be educated. Riches always bring their own peculiar claims along with them; and unless a correct estimate is early formed of the value of money and the manner in which it can be laid out to the best advantage, you will never enjoy the comforts and tranquillity which well-managed riches can bestow. It is much to be doubted whether any one can skilfully manage large possessions, unless, at some period or other of life, they have forced themselves, or been forced, to exercise self-denial, and resolutely given up all those expenses the indulgence of which would have been imprudent. Those who indiscriminately gratify every taste for expense the moment it is excited, can never experience the comforts of competency, though they may have the name of wealth and the reality of its accompanying cares.

Still further, let your memory and imagination be here exercised to assist in reconciling you to your present lot. Can you not remember a time when you wanted money still more than you do now? when you had a still greater difficulty in obtaining the things you reasonably desire? To those who have acquired the art of contentment, the present will always seem to have some compensating advantage over the past, however brighter that past may appear to others. This valuable art will bring every hidden object gradually into light, as the dawning day seems to waken into existence those objects which had before been unnoticed in the darkness.

Lastly, your imagination, well employed, will make use of your partial knowledge of other people’s affairs to picture to you how much worse off many of those are, how much worse off you might yourself be. You, for instance, can still accomplish much by the aid of self-denial; while many, with hearts as warm in charities, as overflowing as your own, have not more to give than the “cup of cold water,” that word of mercy and consolation.

You may still further, perhaps, complain that you have no object of exciting interest to engage your attention, and develop your powers of labour, and endurance, and cleverness. Never has this trial been more vividly described than in the well-remembered lines of a modern poet:

She was active, stirring, all fire
Could not rest, could not tire
To a stone she had given life!
For a shepherd’s, miner’s, huntsman’s wife,
Never in all the world such a one!
And here was plenty to be done,
And she that could do it, great or small,
She was to do nothing at all."

This wish for occupation, for influence, for power even, is not only right in itself, but the unvarying accompaniment of the consciousness of high capabilities. It may, however, be intended that these cravings should be satisfied in a different way, and at a different time, from that which your earthly thoughts are now desiring. It may be that the very excellence of the office for which you are finally destined requires a greater length of preparation than that needful for ordinary duties and ordinary trials. At present, you are resting in peace, without any anxious cares or difficult responsibilities, but you know not how soon the time may come that will call forth and strain to the utmost your energies of both mind and body. You should anxiously make use of the present interval of repose for preparation, by maturing your prudence, strengthening your decision, acquiring control over your own temper and your own feelings, and thus fitting yourself to control others.

Or are you, on the contrary, wasting the precious present time in vain repinings, in murmurings that weaken both mind and body, so that when the hour of trial comes you will be entirely unfitted to realize the beautiful ideal of the poet?

“A perfect woman, nobly plann’d
To warn, to counsel, to command:
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill."

Then, again, I would ask you to make use of your powers of reflection and memory. Reflect what trials and difficulties are, in the common course of events, likely to assail you; remember former difficulties, former days or weeks of trial, when all your now dormant energies were developed and strained to the utmost. You felt then the need of much greater powers of mind and body than those which you now complain are lying dormant and useless. Further imagine the future cases that may occur in which every natural and acquired faculty may be employed for the great advantage of those who are dear to you, and when you will experience that this long interval of repose and preparation was altogether needful.

Such reflections, memories, and imaginations must, however, be carefully guarded, lest, instead of reconciling you to the apparent uselessness of your present life, they should contribute to increase your discontent. This they might easily do, even though such reflections and memories related only to trials and difficulties, instead of contemplating the pleasures and the importance of responsibilities. To an ardent nature like yours, trials themselves, even severe ones, which would exercise the powers of your mind and the energies of your character, would be more welcome than the tame, uniform life you at present lead.

The considerations above recommended can, therefore, be only safely indulged in connection with, and secondary to, a most vigilant and conscientious examination into the truth of one of your principal complaints, viz. that you have to do, like the Duke’s wife, “nothing at all." You may be “seeking great things” to do, and consequently neglecting those small charities which “soothe, and heal, and bless.” Listen to the words of a great teacher of our own day: “The situation that has not duty, its ideal, was never yet occupied by man. Yes, here, in this poor, miserable, pampered, despised actual, wherein thou even now standest, here, or nowhere, is thy ideal; work it out, therefore, and, working, believe, live, be free. Fool! the ideal is in thyself; the impediment, too, is in thyself: thy condition is but the stuff thou art to shape that same ideal out of what matters whether the stuff be of this sort or of that, so the form thou give it be heroic, be poetic? O thou that pinest in the imprisonment of the actual, and criest bitterly to the gods for a kingdom wherein to rule and create, know this of a truth, the thing thou seekest is already with thee, ’here, or nowhere,’ couldst thou only see.”

When you examine the above assertions by the light of Scripture, can you contradict their truth?

Let us, however, ascend to a still higher point of view. Have we not all, under every imaginable circumstance, a work mighty and difficult enough to develope our strongest energies, to engage our deepest interests? Have we not all to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?" Professing to believe, as we do, that the discipline of every day is ordered by Infinite Love and Infinite Wisdom, so as best to assist us in this awfully important task, can we justly complain of any mental void, of any inadequacy of occupation, in any of the situations of life?

The only work that can fully satisfy an immortal spirit’s cravings for excitement is the work appointed for each of us. It is one, too, that has no intervals of repose, far less of languor or ennui; the labour it demands ought never to cease, the intense and engrossing interest it excites can never vary or lessen in importance. The alternative is a more awful one than human mind can yet conceive: those who have not fulfilled their appointed work, those who have not, through the merits of Christ, obtained the “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord," “must depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

With a hell to avoid, and a heaven to obtain, do you murmur for want of interest, of occupation!

In the words of the old story, “Look below on the earth, and then above in heaven:” remember that your only business here is to get there; then, instead of repining, you will be thankful that no great temporal work is given you to do which might, as too often happens, distract your attention and your labours from the attainment of life eternal. Having been once convinced of the awful and engrossing importance of this “one thing” we have to “do," you will see more easily how many minor duties may be appointed you to fulfil, on a path that before seemed a useless as well as an uninteresting one. For you would have now learned to estimate the small details of daily life, not according to their insignificance, not as they may influence your worldly fate, but as they may have a tendency to mould your spirit into closer conformity to the image of the Son. You will now no longer inquire whether you have any work to do which you might yourself consider suitable to your capabilities and energies; but whether there is within your reach any, the smallest, humblest work of love, contemned or unobserved before, when you were more proud and less vigilant.

Look, then, with prayer and watchfulness into all the details of your daily life, and you will assuredly find much formerly-unnoticed “stuff,” out of which “your ideal” may be wrought.

You may, for instance, have no opportunity of teaching on an enlarged scale, or even of taking a class at a Sunday-school, or of instructing any of your poor neighbours in reading or in the word of God. Such labours of love may, it is possible, though not probable, be shut out of your reach: if, however, you are on the watch for opportunities, (and we are best made quick-sighted to their occurrence in the course of the day, by the morning’s earnest prayer for their being granted to us,) you may be able to help your fellow-pilgrims Zion-ward in a variety of small ways. “A word in season, how good is it!” the mere expression of religious sympathy has often cheered and refreshed the weary traveller on his perhaps difficult and lonely way. A verse of Scripture, a hymn taught to a child, only the visitor of a day, has often been blessed by God to the great spiritual profit of the child so taught. Are not even such small works of love within your reach?

Again, with respect to family duties, I know that in some cases, when there are many to fulfil such duties, it is a more necessary and often a more difficult task to refrain altogether from interfering in them. They ought to be allowed to serve as a safety-valve for the energies of those members of the family who have no other occupations: of these there will always be some in a large domestic circle. Without, however, interfering actively and habitually, which it may not be your duty to do, are you always ready to help when you are asked, and to take trouble willingly upon yourself, when the excitement and the credit of the arrangement will belong exclusively to others? This is a good sign of the humility and lovingness of your spirit: how is the test borne?

Further, you may complain that your conversation is not valued, and that therefore you have no excitement to exertion for the amusement of others; that your cheerfulness and good temper under sorrows and annoyances are of no consequence, as you are not considered of sufficient importance for any display of feeling to attract attention. When I hear such complaints, and they are not unfrequent from the younger members of large families, I have little doubt that the sting in all these murmurs is infixed by their pride. They assure me, at the same time, that if there was any one to care much about it, to watch anxiously whether they were vexed or pleased, they would be able to exercise the strictest control over their feelings and temper, and I believe it, for here their pride and their affection would both come to the assistance of duty. What God requires of us, however, is its fulfilment when all these things are against us. The effort to control grief, to conceal depression, to conquer ill-temper, will be a far more acceptable offering in his eyes, when they alone are expected to witness it. That which now his eyes alone see will one day be proclaimed upon the housetop.

I must, besides, remind you that your proud spirit may deceive you when it suggests, that because your sadness or your ill-humour attracts no expressed notice or excites no efforts to remove it, it does not therefore affect those around you. This is not the case; even the gloom and ill-humour of a servant, who only remains a few minutes in attendance, will be depressing and annoying to the most unobservant master and mistress, though they might make no efforts to remove it. How much more, then, may your want of cheerfulness and sweet temper affect, though it may be insensibly, the peace of your family circle. Here you are again seeking great things for yourself, and neglecting your appointed work, because it does not to you appear sufficiently worthy of your high capabilities. Your proud spirit needs being humbled, and therefore, probably, it is that you will not be allowed to do great things. No, you must first learn the less agreeable task of doing small things, of doing what would perhaps be called easy things by those who have never tried them. To wear a contented look when you know that, perhaps, the effort will not be observed, certainly not appreciated, to take submissively the humblest part in the conversation, and still bear cheerfully that part, to bear with patience every hasty word that may be spoken, and so to forget it that your future conduct may be uninfluenced by it, to remove every difficulty, the removal of which is within your reach, without expecting that the part you have taken will be acknowledged or even observed, to be always ready with your sympathy, encouragement, and counsel, however scornfully they may have before been rejected; these are all acts of self-renunciation which are peculiarly fitted to a woman’s sphere of duty, and have a direct tendency to cherish the difficult and excellent grace of humility; they may, however, help to foster rather than to subdue a spirit of discontent, if they are performed from a motive of obtaining any, even the most exalted, human approbation. They must be done to God alone, and then the promise is sure, “thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Thus, too, the art of contentment may be much more easily learnt. Disappointment will surely sour your temper if you look forward to human appreciation of a self-denying habit of life; but when the approbation of God is the object sought for, no neglect from others can excite discontent or much regret. For here there can be no disappointment: that which comes to us through the day has all been decreed by him, and as it must therefore give us opportunities of fulfilling his will, and gaining his approbation, we must necessarily “be content.”

It must, indeed, be always owing to some deficiency in religious principle, that one discontented thought is suffered to dwell in the mind. If our heart and our treasure were in heaven, should we be easily excited to regret and irritation about the inconveniences of our position on earth? If we sought “first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," should we have so much energy remaining to waste on petty worldly annoyances? If we obeyed the injunction, “have faith in God,” should we daily and hourly, by our sinful murmuring, imply such doubts of the divine attributes of wisdom, love, and power? This is a want of faith you do not manifest towards men. You would trust yourself fearlessly to the care of some earthly physician; you would believe that he understood how to adapt his strengthening or lowering remedies to each varying feature of your case; you would even provide yourself with remedies, which, on the faith of his skill, you would trustingly use to meet every symptom that might arise on future occasions. But when the Great Physician manifests a still greater watchfulness to adapt his daily discipline to your varying temper and the different stages of your Christian growth, you murmur you believe not in his wisdom as you do in that of the sons of earth.

Do not, then, take his wisdom on faith alone; you must indeed believe, you must believe or perish; but it may be as yet too difficult a lesson for you to believe against sense, against feeling. What I would urge upon you is, to strengthen your weak faith by the lessons of experience, to seek anxiously, and to pray to be enabled to see distinctly, the peculiar manner in which each trial of your daily lot is adapted to your own individual case.

I do not speak now of great trials, of such afflictions as crush the sufferer in the dust. When the hand of God is so plainly seen, it is comparatively easy to submit, and his Holy Spirit, ever fulfilling the promise “as thy day is, so shall thy strength be," sometimes makes the riven heart strong to bear that which, in prospective, it dares not even contemplate. You, however, have had no trial of this nature; yours are the petty irritations, the small vexations which “smart more because they hold in Holy Writ no place." Even at more peaceful times, when you can contemplate with resignation the general features of your lot in life, you cannot subdue your spirit to patience under the hourly varying annoyances and temptations with which you are beset. The peculiar sensitiveness of your disposition, your affectionate, generous nature, your refinement of mind, and quick tact, all expose you to suffer more severely than others from the selfishness, the coarse-mindedness, the bluntness of perception of those around you. You often say, in the bitterness of your heart, Any other trial but this I could have borne; every other chastisement would have been light in comparison. But why have you so little faith? Why do you not see that it is because all these petty trials are so severe to you, therefore are they sent? All these amiable qualities that I have enumerated, and the love which they win for you, would make you admire and value yourself too much, unless your system were reduced, so to speak, by a series of petty but continued annoyances. As I said before, you must seek to strengthen your faith by tracing the close connection between these annoyances and the “needs be” for them. It is probably exactly at the time when you are too much elated by praise and admiration that you are sent some counterbalancing annoyance, or perhaps suffered to fall into some fault of temper which will lessen you in your own eyes, as well as in those of others. You are often troubled by some annoyance, too, when you have blamed others for being too easily overcome by an annoyance of the very same kind. “Stand upon” an anxious “watch,” and you will see how constantly severe judgments of others are punished by falling ourselves into temptations similar to those which we had treated as light ones when sitting in judgment upon others. If you would acquire the habit of exercising faith with respect to the smallest details of your every-day life, by such faith the light itself might be won, and your eyes be opened to see how wondrously all things, even those which appear the most needlessly worrying, are made to work together for your good. These are, however, but the first lessons in the school of faith, the first steps on the road which leads to “rest in God.”

Severer trials are hastening onward, for which your present petty trials are serving as a preparatory discipline. According to the manner in which these are met and supported, will be your patience in the hour of deep darkness and bitter desolation. Waste not one of your present petty sorrows: let them all, by the help of prayer, and watchfulness, and self-control, work their appointed work in your soul. Let them lead you each day more and more trustingly to “cast all your care upon Him who careth for you." In the present hours of tranquillity and calm, let the light and infrequent storms, the passing clouds that disturb your peace, serve as warnings to you to find a sure refuge before the clouds of affliction become so heavy, and its storms so violent, that there will be no power of seeking a haven of security. That must be sought and found in seasons of comparative peace. Though the agonized soul may finally, through the waves of sorrow, make its way into the ark, its long previous struggles, and its after harrowing doubts and fears, will shatter it nearly to pieces before it finds a final refuge. It may, indeed, by the free grace of God, be saved at the last, but during the remainder of its earthly pilgrimage there is no hope for it of joy and peace in believing.

But when the hour of earthly desolation comes to those who have long acknowledged the special providence of God in “all the dreary intercourse of daily life,” “they knew in whom they have believed," and no storms can shake that faith. They know from experience that all things work together for good to them that love God. In the loving, child-like confidence of long-tried and now perfecting faith, they are enabled to say from the depths of their heart, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." They seek not now to ascertain the “needs be” for this particular trial. It might harrow up their human heart too much to trace the details of sorrows such as these, in the manner in which they formerly examined into the details of those of daily life. “It is the Lord;” these words alone not only still all complaining, but fill the soul with a depth of peace never experienced by the believer until all happiness is withdrawn but that which comes direct from God. “It is the Lord,” who died that we might live, and can we murmur even if we dared? No; the love of Christ constrains us to cast ourselves at his feet, not only in submission, but in grateful adoration. It is through his redeeming love that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Even the very depth of mystery which may attend the sorrowful dispensation, will only draw forth a stronger manifestation of the Christian’s faith and love. She will be enabled to rejoice that God does not allow her to see even one reason for the stroke that lays low all her earthly happiness; as thus only, perhaps, can she experience all the fulness of peace that accompanies an unquestioning trust in the wisdom and love of his decrees. For such unquestioning trust, however, there must be a long and diligent preparation: it is not the growth of days or weeks; yet, unless it is begun even this very day, it may never be begun at all. The practice of daily contentment is the only means of finally attaining to Christian resignation.

I do not appeal to you for the necessity of immediate action, because this day may be your last. I do not exhort you “to live as if this day were the whole of life, and not a part or section of it," because it may, in fact, be the whole of life to you. It may be so, but it is not probable, and when you have certainties to guide you, they are better excitements to immediate action than the most solemn possibilities.

The certainty to which I now appeal is, that every duty I have been urging upon you will be much easier to you to-day than it would be, even so soon as to-morrow. One hour’s longer indulgence of a discontented spirit, of rebellious and murmuring thoughts, will stamp on your mind an impression, which, however slight it may be, will entail upon you a lifelong struggle against it. Every indulged thought becomes a part of ourselves: you have the awful freedom of will to make yourself what you will to be. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," “Quench” the Spirit and the holy flame will never be rekindled. Kneel, then, before God, even now, to pray that you may be enabled to will aright.

Before you opened these pages, some of your daily irritations were probably preying on your mind. You have often, perhaps, recurred to the annoyance, whatever it may be, while you read on and on. Make this annoyance your first opportunity of victory, the first step in the path of contentment. Pray to an ever-present God, that he may open your eyes to see how large may have been the portion of blame to yourself in the annoyance you complain of, in how far it may be the due and inevitable chastisement of some former sin; how, finally, it may turn to your present profit, by giving you a keener insight into the evils of your own heart, and a more indulgent view of the often imaginary wrongs of others towards you.

Let not this trial be lost to you; by faith and prayer, this cloud may rain down blessings upon you. The annoyance from which you are suffering may be a small one, casting but a temporary shadow, even like the

“Cloud passing over the moon;
’Tis passing, and twill pass full soon."

But ere that shadow has passed away, your fate may be as decided as that of the renegade in poetic fiction. During the time this cloud has rested upon you, the first link of an interminable chain of habits, for good or for ill, may have been fastened around you. Who can tell what “Now” it is that “is the accepted time?” We know from Scripture that there is this awful period, and your present temptation to murmuring and rebellion against the will of God (for it is still his will, though it may be manifested through a created instrument) may be to you that “Now.” Pray earnestly before you decide what use you will make of it.