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he read to her, and the little stool which had served to support her feet.
Affected by all these objects, he could scarcely refrain from tears; but, sitting down, he sunk into a long and deep reverie.
During this period of abstraction, he called to mind the general tendency of the education which his aunt had given him, and he perceived, as at a glance, that its whole purport and object had been to ħt him for the ministry of Christ on earth, and for the enjoyment of his kingdom in heaven; and, falling upon his knees, he solemnly and earnestly entreated that he might now be strengthened for the performance of those duties for which he had been so long preparing.
The prayers of this young man were heard, and he was indeed strengthened and
assisted in a wonderful degree; so that he presently found himself engaged in such a round of duties, as left him no time either for company
any kind of study which had not some reference to his ministerial labours. His parish was exceedingly populous, being full of manufactories; and the houses of the lower classes were confusedly clustered together in narrow streets, blind alleys, and obscure courts. The young curate could expect no assistance whatever from his rector, who was paralytic, and nearly blind; neither had he any parishioners belonging to his church of such characters as could give him much assistance.
The first attempt of this young man was to acquire an idea of the numbers of his people, to make himself acquainted with the streets and alleys, and to begin, without loss of time, a course of visiting from house to house : and, as his fortune was easy, he also resolved to establish a rigid economy with regard to himself, and to devote all he could spare to the necessitous.
One of his first works was to hire a large house, and establish a Sunday and daily school; and because the church was far too small to admit, at once, one tenth part of the population, he added another service on a Sunday, and several others on the week days. He was happy in meeting with no opposition on the part of his rector, who had known him from a child, and being partial to him, was easily persuaded to yield to all his requests.
During his visits among his people, the
young curate was presently informed that another denomination of Christians had established a chapel and schools in a remote district of his parish, in which their minister was labouring with considerable effect.
Edmund Stephens, in calculating the number of houses in his parish, and the time it would take to visit each, had already felt that his cure of souls was immense, and very far above the compass of one man's capacity, though he were to devote himself
unceasingly to the work. He therefore felt it some relief to find that there was another labourer working in his great vineyard, and he resolved to make himself acquainted with this minister; and if he found that his opinions were such as in the main he could approve, he would offer him his friendship, hold out the right-hand of fellowship to him, and assure him, that between them there should be no other contest than a holy strife who should do most good, and win most souls to God. And thus he reasoned with himself: “It is impossible for me to give individual attention to each of my parishioners, and yet, humanly speaking, some may be lost without this particular attention. This Christian minister, in another part of my parish, may be able to bestow that individual attention which I cannot always supply, and he may have a better metbod of instruction than I have. I know that he has more experience; but, granting he has only as good a method, how shall I presume to take upon me to deprive others of the benefit of his labours, when I perhaps have it not in my power to make it up to them by my own exertions ? If I weaken the hands of a pious man, or stop his mouth, and thus hinder his usefulness, am I not, humanly speaking, accountable for the loss of any soul which may thereby perish for want of help, and thus become, as far as in me lies, a spiritual murderer?”
In this manner the young clergyman argued with himself: but as he considered also that there are some who dissent from our Church in points of such amazing consequence that true Christians can by no means extend their encouragement towards them, he determined to make himself quite sure that there was nothing of this kind in the minister in question; and having ascertained this point, he called upon him, and, opening his heart frankly to him, he asked his friendship, and gave him leave to do as much good as he possibly could in his parish.
The dissenting minister, who was a gentleman in manners and in education, and a person of true piety, was much touched by the frankness and simplicity of the young curate.
He received his overtures with cordiality; and it not unfrequently happened, after this, that these servants of God would consult together, to bring to pass their little plans for the advancement of the glory of their common Master.
When Edmund Stephens had arrived at the proper age, he was admitted to priest's orders, and returned immediately to his labours of love, which he pursued with unabated ardour. And although he made several innovations on certain old customs, established, time immemorial, in the parish, yet on these occasions he either excited less animosity, or heard less of the anger he did excite, (which came nearly to the same thing,) than could possibly have been expected.
Through the divine blessing, he was particularly mindful of what his aunt had said to him on the necessity of keeping his own mind in a calm and heavenly state if he wished to do good; and in order to preserve this state of mind, he found that he must carefully observe several rules. One was, never to allow praise to reach his ears without cautiously guarding against those injurious effects that it is calculated to produce on his mind; because he found that, whenever he had taken praise to himself rather than carry it to the Lord, he immediately became acutely alive to blame, and more irritated against
person who had blamed him, than he had lately been pleased with him who had extolled him. On this account, when descending from his pulpit, he always carefully shunned such persons as were accustomed to meet him on these occasions with any complimentary expressions; and if he found it wholly impossible to avoid such indiscreet friends, he never failed to declare to them, that he dared not to accept the honour which cometh from man. Another rule which this excellent young man was enabled to lay down for himself was, to keep his ears shut to the common reports and unmeaning tittle-tattle of the day; as he found that this unimportant and trifling gossip had a peculiar effect, in lowering the standard of his thoughts, in producing listlessness in the exercise of his duty, and in loading his mind with that fear of the world which a minister ought above all dangers to avoid.
In consequence of the faithful observance of these rules, Edmund Stephens was enabled to preserve much composure of mind amidst a crooked and perverse generation, and was kept in a state of continued tranquillity, hidden, as it were,
within the secret of the pavilion of his God: and being thus blessed with that peace which the world cannot give, he was constantly assisted in his endeavours to seek the mind of the Lord, and to bear in perpetual remembrance that sweet address of the Church to the Chief Shepherd which we find in the first chapter of the Canticles, and the seventh verse - Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? Thus he continued to pursue his undeviating course of rectitude, walking in deep humility, and always giving the glory to God, till certain events took place, which I shall relate without further delay.
The town in which Edmund Stephens resided was one of those large manufacturing places which is continually receiving successive enlargements, and spreading its suburbs, its gardens, new rows, streets, squares, and crescents, over the adjacent country. The town had not formerly extended beyond the bounds of one parish, and this was the parish in which Edmund resided; a region of smoke and spinning-machines, containing many dark old houses, and intersected with narrow streets and miserable little alleys. But of late years, the new buildings had encroached upon another rectory, whose little modernized parsonage-house was now seen standing in a garden, between a square and a half-finished crescent.
This living had lately become vacant, and, through the exertions of old Mr. Parnel, it was procured for Francis, who, being recalled in all haste from abroad, had scarcely time to take priest's orders before it was necessary for him to hasten to
to be inducted in his rectory
Edmund Stephens heard of the success of his friend with unmingled pleasure, and anticipated such a renewal of their former intercourse as should render life even more sweet than he had already found it.
Edmund happened to be particularly engaged on the day that his friend was to be inducted, and was obliged to be out of town for some days afterwards; but immediately on his return he hastened to seek the companion of bis youth, and having enquired for him at his parsonage, was informed by some workmen, who were engaged in the house, that he was to be found at a lodging-house in the neighbouring square, where he was to remain till all was ready at the parsonage for his reception.
As the parsonage had lately been occupied by a very large family, Edmund could not clearly understand how it was that Mr. Parnel was unable to find in it a corner fit to put his head in. As this, however, was no business of his, he presently lost the singular impression which this seeming nicety of his old companion had at first made upon his mind; and having found out the lodging-house where Mr. Parnel then was, and obtained admittance, he rushed up the stairs, and a moment afterwards had seized the hand of his friend, and was shaking it with an ardour which proved that his kind feelings towards him had met with no abatement from absence.
Edmund was not one of those persons who are keenly alive to every slight, and who possess, in consequence, the quickest perception of every shade and degree of cordiality or want of cordiality in the salutation of a friend; yet he could not but perceive, on this occasion, that there was a certain something in Mr. Parnel's reception of him which threw a damp over his heart. He, however, endeavoured to recover from this sudden chill, and forced himself to suppose that it was only the effect of fancy. He accordingly took the seat that was offered him, and began to express the delight he felt in being restored to one from whose society he had formerly enjoyed so much delight. He spoke of his aunt, and of many sweet hours spent in her society; and remarked, that he had never, since her death, met with a person so entirely above the world as she was, and, in consequence, so truly charming: to all which Mr. Parnel re