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is to supply the subject of our consideration this day, appears to have lost much of its influence on well-meaning persons by having been constantly applied to common swearers, and men of a profane conversation. Such, indeed, are the persons whose transgressions of this commandment are open to every eye: but there are others, (and the reflection is an awful one,) who, in the all-seeing eye of Almighty God, are more continually, and perhaps in many cases with equal deliberation, committing this offence, than the profanest persons we meet with in the street.
“ The characters to which I allude, are such as affect religious feelings which they have never experienced, and assume a high tone in religious societies, while their hearts are far from God, and wholly devoted to the world. It is to be feared, that the most sincere Christians are too often convicted by their own hearts of hypocrisy and formality in their sacred duties: and though we are not capable of forming any judgment of the degree of hypocrisy which may exist in our own hearts, (much less in that of any individual among our acquaintance,) yet of this we may be assured, that hypocrisy dwells more or less in every breast; and that the human creature lives not, whose affections are ever flowing in their right channel, or whose wandering thoughts, and mixed and worldly motives of action, do not very frequently lead him to offend against this solemn injunction, * Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.'
“It is certain, that we cannot call ourselves too strictly to account for the imperfection of our spiritual duties, as well as for the deadness and coldness of our religious feelings. But, since our blessed Saviour has adopted the use of parables as the medium of divine instruction, and as this mode of communicating knowledge is particularly attractive to young people, instead of entering into a further serious discussion of this subject, I shali read to you a short story, which is particularly to our present purpose."
The lady of the inanor then took a manuscript from a drawer, and read as follows:
The History of Anna. On the western acclivity of one of those ridges of hills which in part separate England from Wales, there stands an old-fashioned farm-house, which, from some remains of ancient splendour, might be known to have been formerly the habitation of some greater man than its present occupant. To those who approach on the Welsh side, where a thymy down or sheep-walk arises abruptly above the house, its loftiest summit being crowned with a group of venerable oaks, a porch presents itself of very ancient construction, through which, by folding doors of oak, strengthened with knobs of iron, there is admittance into a very large low hall.
This hall was formerly wainscoted with some kind of wood which time had made quite black, and which was set forth with grim and faded portraits of the ancient lords and dames of the mansion. On one side of this great hall was a large parlour, to which there was an ascent by several steps. This parlour was hung with faded tapestry, and its brown, highly polished floor, exbibited the housewifery of her who, at the time of which I am speaking, presided within the venerable walls. The heavy chairs and settees, covered with old-fashioned needlework, were in perfect keeping with every visible part of the mansion, while they afforded curious specimens of the laborious notability of the ladies of the seventeenth century. On the opposite side of the hall was a large kitchen, smelling of wood smoke, and well stored with Alitches of bacon and other appearances of plenty; while, in one corner of this kitchen, a little parlour, which had been redeemed from some old pantry or store-room, afforded a refuge to the farmer and his wife, at so convenient a distance from the servants' apartment, that the good people found it no difficult matter to issue their domestic decrees, and to chide and commend, without stirring from their usual elbow-chairs on each side the fire.
About thirty years ago, this antique mansion, with the lands appertaining to it, was rented by an elderly man, of respectable family, and of a character more upright than is commonly met with among persons unacquainted with true religion. He had married, rather late in life, a woman in most respects very suitable to him, but wholly deficient, among other desirable qualities, in that sprightliness which makes home agreeable to a man when returning to his house after a hard day's work. The farmer, however, was not of a temper to fret himself very deeply because his wife wanted wit, so long as she kept her dairy clean, and saw that his supper was well cooked, and neatly set on the table: and though the society of a more cheerful companion might have been desirable, yet, considering that he might have done much worse in marriage, he was contented to take things as they came, and make the best of them.
Farmer Williams had been married several years before he had any prospect of becoming a father, and he was, therefore, the more delighted when he found himself in possession of a little daughter, to whom he gave the name of Anna.
This little girl, who had arrived so unexpectedly, would have, no doubt, been the darling of her parents, had she promised, in infancy, to have possessed no attractions superior to those of the notable dame her mother. But it was so ordered, that Anna should be such a child as every parent must have delighted in; and though it could not be denied, that there was something in her face not wholly unlike her mother's, yet it was a resemblance at once so agreeable and so pretty, that it was impossible for her parents not to look upon her with pride: since, as I before remarked, they were not subject to the influence of religion.
It might be supposed, that such a child would be the darling of any family, even had there been many children to share their parents' tenderness: but little Anna, being an only child, engrossed the whole affection of her fond parents, and, in consequence, experienced, during the first six years of her life, every species of indulgence which it was possible for her injudicious mother to shew her.
Farmer Williams and his wife were, at that period, as I before said, wholly unacquainted with the religion of Christ; it was impossible, therefore, for them to impart to their child truly Christian instructions: neither did it ever enter into the head of the fond mother to suppose that her smiling Anna could stand in need of correction. Accordingly, whenever the farmer hinted the possibility that even a good child might be indulged too far, the displeasure of the old lady commonly rose to such a height, that the good man always quitted the scene of engagement without further trial of his strength, leaving his wife to spoil his child to the utmost of her heart's desire, he himself being by no means fully convinced of the dreadful consequences which might ensue to his daughter from such indiscretion.
If parents only consulted the happiness of their children in this world, without any view whatever to the next, they would accustom them early to a prudent restraint; because there is no imaginable state of life in which it is not necessary for an individual to submit his will to that of others. And even were it possible, that all the world should unite in humouring the caprices of one person, yet how many uncontrollable circumstances must there necessarily arise by which the desires of such a one may be frustrated, and his expectations utterly destroyed
On finishing her sixth year, her parents, who were at that time in good circumstances, began to consider how they might procure for their little Anna what they called a good education; when her mother proposed that she should be sent to a boarding school. After much discussion, a school was chosen for their daughter in the town of L- which was about forty miles from the place of her birth. This school, which was kept by two ladies of the name of Barber, was selected by the mother, from having heard a certain squire's lady say, that it was a very genteel school; and it was approved by the father, because he kept two fairs in , and, in consequence, should have the opportunity of seeing his little daughter at school once between each vacation.
Influenced by these weighty reasons, the parents consigned their little girl to the care of the Misses Barber; and Mr. Williams conveyed her to and from school twice a year in his market-cart, which he kept neatly painted for these occasions.
Anna was kept at this school from her seventh year till she was turned fifteen, a year longer than her parents had at first intended, as the Misses Barber, when she was about to be removed, at the age of fourteen,
had requested that she might be permitted to stay one year more under the character of a parlour-boarder, in order that this last twelvemonth might be devoted to giving her the final polish, and introducing her into company. Miss Barber also, in order to persuade the kind father to submit to a year's longer separation from his child, assured him, that she should not charge a single farthing more for all the privileges Miss Anna would enjoy as parlour-boarder; confidently asserting, that this last year, if properly employed, would be more advantageous to the dear young lady than all the foregoing instructions she had received, since she might acquire such manners, during this interval, as would fit her to associate with the best company.
Mr. Williams accordingly, although a man of sense and discernment in many things, allowed himself to be persuaded by Miss Barber to leave his daughter with her another year, in order that she might be introduced into company, and acquire polished manners; never considering that a taste for company was almost the worst taste she could possibly acquire, as her future residence was to be in a solitary farm-house on the Welsh hills, and that highly polished manners, if they could have been acquired at L-~, would render her unfit either for his own society or that of her mother.
But we will not stop to wonder at the farmer's imprudence on this point; because our experience in life must be small indeed, if we have not seen repeated instances of the same kind of conduct in parents much better instructed than Farmer Williams.
While Anna remained at the Misses Barber's, she saw her mother regularly twice a year; and as she was allowed every indulgence at home, and always received with open arms and heart by her tender, though falsely kind, parent, she had formed a very pleasant idea of home, accustoming herself to talk of the time when she was constantly to live at home, as a time of continued holiday and never-ending festivity. It was no wonder indeed that the youthful Anna did not foresee, that a gay boarding-school' education was by no means a fit preparation for the duties of a solitary farm-house, when her parents, with all their experience of life, had not once made this reflection.