« EelmineJätka »
apply all the light which it may be able to reflect upon any obscure passage in the holy Word.
öc The minister of Christ,” added she, " should have no desire to be exalted upon earth, and no wish but for the general extension and stability of Christ's kingdom. He belongeth not to the kingdoms of the world, and has no part in them; and therefore, as the ancient Romans laboured for the exaltation of their city, willingly giving up their lives for its glory, so he, while exerting a similar spirit in a better cause, ought only to desire the prosperity of Christ's Church on earth, and wish alone that he might be employed in the promotion of this mighty work, if it were only in removing a little of the rubbish which encumbers the place of its foundations. He ought not to embroil himself with the petty discords of the day; but should make a point of taking every man by the hand who loves his Saviour and speaks in his name. And though he may be particularly attached to his own form of worship and peculiar household, yet he will not presume to mar the work, or weaken the influence, of any individual who gives evidence of his being on the side of the Lord, lest, haply, he should be found fighting against his God."
In this manner Mrs. Mary Stephens used to converse with these youths who were under her care, and she also took especial delight in giving them such views as prophecy would allow of the kingdom of Christ on earth, in that blessed period when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and many
nations shall flow unto it. (Micah iv. 1.) It was her opinion, that were this unheeded doctrine of the millennium more studied, and received with a purer feeling of faith, it
. would prove a grand means of improving the motives of action of a young Christian. “A youth who has just finished his studies in some celebrated academy, or other place of education,” she would often say, " is very apt to imagine that he knows all that is to be known, or at least that his acquirements put him upon a footing with age and experience; not being aware that there is no mode of education, however wisely arranged, no habits, however judiciously formed, and faithfully attended to, which can give the wisdom of maturity to young persons.
Human learning is by no means found to produce this effect; and when the judgment is naturally weak, it is known often to have a contrary influence, as it has a frequent tendency to excite vanity. The state of mind, therefore, in which young people leave their studies is commonly an unfavourable one with respect to their well-doing as Christians; and it is often found that the mind of youth at this time is remarkably full of prejudices, and that the young individual is disposed to despise all conditions of men, all orders of government, and modes of society, which differ from certain views of perfection that he may have been led to embrace. He considers every man as a schismatic who does not worship God precisely in his own way, and counts every individual an ignoramus who has not passed through the same precise train of instruction as himself; neither
he believe that there may be other constitutions and modes of discipline, both in church and state, which may have some excellencies, though they differ from
By the sober part of young people such notions are commonly held; while by those who are otherwise, there is often cherished a mode of thinking directly contrary, and the young man, in the plenitude of his self-conceit, despises all existing institutions, and sighs for every novelty.”
Such were the views which Mrs. Mary Stephens entertained of young people in general; and she would often say, that if such persons could be led to see from Scripture that a period is to come which, compared with the present age, will be as light to darkness-a period in which it will be proved that all human wisdom will be but as folly, and earthly pride no better than madnessthey might, with the divine blessing, be brought thereby
their eyes to the truth, and, leaving all things which are behind, to aspire only after that glory which is to be hereafter. “But as long,” she would add, “ as Christians continue to close their eyes and ears to the glorious promises of Scripture with regard to Christ's kingdom on earth, and to fill their minds with the petty discords of the day, they cannot extend their views beyond the narrow views of this world, nor rise above a grovelling mode of thinking, by which their characters
and conversation will be depressed, and the concerns of the Catholic Church proportionably injured."
Edmund and Francis had now spent nearly two years under the same roof, during which time their friendship seemed to have acquired such firmness and consistency as led those who knew them to hope it would never be disturbed.
Francis had apparently profited much by the holy retirement in which he had spent so many hours of these years, and the very spiritual conversation of Mrs. Stephens. But though his manner was warm, and at times devout, and though he might be urged to a participation in almost any act of piety and self-denial to which Edmund accustomed himself, yet now and then a degree of inconsistency was discernible in his conduct which grieved Mrs. Mary Stephens, and made her feel that he was not to be depended upon. He would sometimes let it appear that he hoped to be distinguished in the University for his learning and abilities; he sometimes would express a wish that he might rise in the Church, in order that he might do the more good; and he would now and then drop an expression by which he betrayed his hopes that when he had a family himself he should live in a more magnificent style than that in which his father did. Nevertheless, when urged upon these points, he would solemnly declare that the secret desire of his heart was to serve his God in simplicity, and to be separate from the world.
The young people had spent two winters together, and were looking forward to a third, when they were unexpectedly deprived of their pious old friend. Mrs. Mary Stephens was one morning found dead in her bed; and thus was this excellent woman suddenly removed from this world of trial into a state of glory.
Her loss was acutely felt by Edmund, to whom she had left all her little property, appointing Mr. Parnel as his guardian.
Edmund found himself more attached than ever to Francis, from his affectionate behaviour on this sorrowful occasion; and therefore rejoiced the more when it was settled that the young men should be placed together under the care of a tutor till they were of a proper age to go to the University.
Edmund was not however altogether happy in his new
situation. Independent of his grief for the loss of his aunt, he found almost every sentence he uttered in some degree ridiculed, either covertly or openly, by some of his tutor's family.
There are many people whom we believe to be pious, (for it would be hard to think otherwise,) whose opinions are of that mixed kind, between what we should call worldly and what is really right, that they cannot bear any plain, simple, straight-forward sentiments. In some persons, this is owing to a natural weakness and littleness of mind, which cannot grasp a great and glorious idea; in others, it is owing to a disputatious turn, which rejects every sentiment that at the first blush does not coincide with opinions already received; and sometimes, I fear, it is to be attributed to the secret wish of reconciling those things which cannot be reconciled, nainely, earthly with heavenly sentiments.
It happened, that Edmund's tutor and all his family were precisely the kind of persons which I have described; and Edmund soon discovered that if he spoke at all while in their presence, he must be constantly subject to disputations. He therefore had recourse to silence, as being by far the less evil of the two: yet to live under a perpetual restraint was painful, and particularly so, as he saw his friend, after several violent contests, gradually sinking on many occasions into the ordinary way of thinking which prevailed in their tutor's family.
During the time that Edmund was with his tutor, he made considerable progress in that kind of knowledge requisite in the University, and was told that if he chose to exert himself, he might obtain some of the highest distinctions there bestowed. Whether this was the case or not still remains, however, to be shewn.
After a due time, Edmund and Francis removed to the University, but they were not both placed in the same college, as Mrs. Stephens, in her will, had named a certain hall as that to which she wished her nephew to be sent, on account of its head having a high character for piety, but which was not approved for Francis, as this hall was not generally esteemed in the world. On this account, therefore, the young men were separated, and saw very little of each other during their residence in college.
The hall at which Edmund was placed was not a situation in which he was likely to obtain much notice. He, however, in the mean time, passed through the University very quietly, and remained there till he was of
age to be ordained, when a curacy became vacant in the very parish in which he had resided from a child. Edmund heard of this, and instantly wrote to solicit this curacy; and as he was able to procure every necessary testimony to his good character, the rector, who was very infirm, promised him the curacy, and gave him his title for ordination.
Edmund now left the University; and being ordained by the bishop of his own diocese, he immediately hastened to take possession of his charge. In the mean time, I should say,
Parnel had passed through the University with considerable eclat, had obtained several prizes, and, having received deacon's orders, was engaged as a tutor in a nobleman's family, about the time that Edmund entered on his curacy. The friends were therefore separated for a time; but they mutually retained a strong regard for each other.
As soon as Edmund Stephens had reached the town where his
curacy was, he hastened, without loss of time, to pay his compliments to his rector, and afterwards, to obtain, if possible, the very apartments which had been occupied so many years by his aunt, and which were rendered dear to him by a thousand pleasing and pathetic recollections.
He heard with no small pleasure that the apartments had been unoccupied ever since his aunt's death, as the mistress of the house had resolved not to let them again. But when Mr. Edmund, whom she had known from a child, came to ask them from her, she could not refuse his request, and begged him to take possession of her own parlour, till the rooms were aired and duly prepared.
Twenty-four hours had scarcely elapsed after Edmund's arrival at the town, before he found himself settled in the very sitting-room so long occupied by his aunt, surrounded by the very furniture which she had been accustomed to use, the chair on which she had sat, the table on which she used to lay her work while