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and thus, in the end all will come upon you
you now (permit me to say) so causelessly dread.
“ And then, my Francis," added Edmund, his voice assuming that expression of noble pathos which it ever did on occasion of his tenderer feelings being excited, “and then, my Francis, then where will be that usefulness which we so often promised ourselves in our early days? · How will the image of the Saviour appear in your deportment and shine in your countenance, when clouds of care and anxiety-worldly care and selfish anxiety-shall rest upon your brow? Recollect the description of the parish-priest in that beautiful poem of Goldsmith.
6. At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head!'" When Edmund had repeated this beautiful quotation, Mr. Parnel, instead of making any reply, remained quite silent; neither could his friend in any way define the expression of his countenance. He saw, indeed, that his words had made a strong impression; but whether that impression was a favourable one, he was at a loss to decide. However, as Edmund (in common with most persons who are raised by true religion above the selfish considerations which actuate the greater part of mankind) was not easily disconcerted when he believed he was doing right, he proceeded to express still plainer his sentiments relative to the character of a minister, paying little regard to the variation of Mr. Parnel's countenance; though, in order to give him time to recover himself, he was careful that his remarks should be of a more general nature than those which he had made before.
“ I was very much struck," said Edmund, “ with an observation which I lately met with, in a work of a clergyman of the present day, who has with the most unremitting assiduity devoted himself to the study of Scripture. This remark related to the conduct of Aaron and Miriam, when they reproved Moses on account of the Ethiopian woman, and thereby incurred the displeasure of the Almighty. Whatever might have been their motives for this sudden attack upon Moses, whose marriage had taken place so many years before, we cannot presume to say, though they were, evidently, unwarrantable, from the anger that the Almighty himself displayed on the occasion; but the punishment inflicted on Aaron and Miriam, and the consequence of this punishment, together with the remark made
this consequence, was that which so forcibly struck me in the work to which I allude.—Behold, the sin of these two professors delayed the progress of all the host of Israel for seven days. Armed hosts and intervening seas could not retard them; but sin, that evil and accursed thing, did what all the powers of earth and hell could not have done. O professor! think how many may be retarded in their progress towards heaven by one sin of thine! Remember what our Lord has said - Woe unto the world because of offences! but woe, most of all, unto him by whom the offence cometh!'"
Edmund was still proceeding with his remarks, (for Mr. Parnel yet remained silent,) when they found that a carriage had stopped at the door; and, a moment afterwards, a Mr. Harrison, an elderly gentleman of considerable consequence in the neighbourhood, and who was supposed to be favourable to religion, was announced.
Mr. Harrison on entering, very cordially accosted the two young ministers; and, on his being seated, the conversation took a general turn, till the old gentleman asked Mr. Parnel why he did not find him in his parsonage-house?
This question, as Edmund feared, led to a recital of grievances; for Mr. Parnel being thereby led to speak of himself, could not stop when he had informed his visitor that his parsonage-house needed some repairs, but proceeded to other matters, till, to the amazement of Edmund, he began fully to describe his situation, and the
difficulties attending it, in precisely the same manner to Mr. Harrison, as he had shortly done before to himself, expressing his apprehensions, that all the world would
him as soon as he should commence to deal sincerely with his people.
" You are mistaken, Sir,” said Mr. Harrison ; truth is not a new thing in this place:” adding, as he turned to Edmund, “our young friend here has not thus kept us in the dark; and I have every reason to think, that you
will have more to fear from the indiscreet flatteries of your people, should you prove faithful to them, than from any other cause. But Mr. Stephens will tell you more of these matters than I can possibly do, for he has had three years' experience, during which neither doctrine nor reproof have been spared.”
“Sir," returned Edmund, “I am perhaps the last man to be addressed on this subject: the days of faggots and stakes are gone by, and I hear very little of what is said of me.”
“But your church, Sir,” replied Mr. Harrison, “ your church overflows!”
“It does, Sir,” replied Edmund, seeming unable any longer to contain himself; “ and since I must speak, I think it but just to my parishioners to say, that I have met with nothing but kindness and affection from them since my residence in the parish.”
“And I might add,” rejoined Mr. Harrison, in a low voice, addressing Mr. Parnel, “it would be strange if he had not: for never, surely, was a man more worthy of esteem.”
It is not known whether Mr. Parnel heard the whole of this whisper; for before it was half finished, he turned to Edmund, and said, “Surely, Stephens, you do not mean to assert that the tongue of censure has in your parish never been moved against you?”
“I make no such assertion,” replied Edmund: “I only know that little, either of praise or blame, has hitherto reached my ears. I know that it is not by the sentence of an earthly tribunal that I must stand or fall; and I endeavour to perplex myself as little as possible with what the world may say, though I consider myself bound to receive any reproof given in an open manner either by friend or enemy.”
“Certainly," returned Mr. Parnel, affecting to laugh, you have found out a good method of preserving your self-complacency, my good fellow; a capital way this is, indeed, of retaining one's own good opinion-refusing to hear all that is said against one! Then, you do not know that you sadly lost your popularity among the clergy of the diocese on one particular occasion which I could name? Mr. Harrison knows what I mean: I heard of it when abroad; and it was almost the first thing which reached my ears when I arrived at this place."
Edmund looked at his watch. At what hour do you dine, Parnel ?” he asked.
" You will excuse me: I have an engagement which will detain me about an hour
I will be with you again before your dinner.” So saying, he bowed to Mr. Harrison, and left the room, bis fine features being all in a glow as he took his departure;. though when he returned at the end of the hour, and found his friend alone, this glow had subsided, leaving only such a bloom as might be attributed to health and exercise, while the usual serene and holy dignity of his countenance was conspicuous.
We do not presume to say what had been passing in the mind of Francis during this interval, but his reflections were surely of a salutary nature; for his friend no sooner appeared, than he held out his hand to him, and said, with much affection, "Edmund, I have offended you. You left me in displeasure: what did I say? what did I do?”
“O, Francis ! dear Francis !” returned Edmund, “my friend and brother! we have spent many happy days together, many precious hours, in that blessed period of early youth which passed away under the gentle influence of my much-lamented aunt. There was a time we had not a secret hidden from each other; and I looked forward to your return as a circumstance which would add many sweets to my journey through life: but unless you will here, my brother, promise never to trouble me with any of those idle rumours respecting myself, my neighbours, and my people, to which you just now alluded, I must from this moment forego all those pleasures which I promised myself in your society. I had, indeed, boped that at the death of either of us, the sur
vivor might have been able to give the same reason for his grief as he did who lamented his Lycidas
'For we were nurs’d upon the self-same hill,
Fed the same flock by fountain, shade, and rill.' But if this must not be, I hope that I am prepared to acquiesce in the divine will: for I must not, I dare not, depart from the injunction of my Master, nor from the rule which I have been enabled to lay down for myself, never to allow my mind to be darkened and my usefulness marred by entering into the empty and idle tittletattle of the professing world.”
“ You are warm, Edmund," said Mr. Parnel.
“I am," returned Edmund. • My feelings are naturally strong, and my temper ardent: I know them to be so, and I know also what I suffered before this constitutional peculiarity could be brought under the influence of grace. But should not this operate as an additional motive for my endeavouring to keep myself in a state of tranquillity?"
“ But, Edmund,” remarked Mr. Parnel, “ how can you ever know yourself, unless you hear wbat your enemies say of you?”
“ The lashes of the tongue,” returned Edmund, " are, doubtless, useful in correcting the foul offences of the impious world, and the admonitions of a faithful friend are never to be despised; but, assuredly, the true Christian should rather seek self-knowledge by communing with his God in secret, than by listening to the voice of the multitude.”
Mr. Parnel urged the argument no further, but, giving his hand to his friend, exclaimed, “O, Edmund ! you make me feel little in my own estimation. Would to God I could be as you are!”
Edmund was melted even to tears: but, as those persons who possess the most tender hearts generally take the greatest care to avoid a display of their feelings, he hastily brushed away these tokens of affection, and, as if by mutual consent, other and less interesting subjects engaged the conversation of the two ministers during the rest of the day; and Edmund, on returning home, tried to think that he had derived much satisfaction from this visit.