Page images
PDF
EPUB

to amuse her father when he came home after a fatiguing day, she used to make some excuse, and slip away, either to her own room, or perhaps to stand for half-an-hour on a landing-place of the great old-fashioned oak stairs, from a window of which she could overlook the gardenwall, and see a high ground which was an object from some parts of the town of L-, and which was rendered visible at night by certain glaring lights arising from the coal and iron works carried on in that place: to this barren eminence she would talk, and

pour

out her sorrows, because of the fancied connexion it had with her dear L

Thus, for want of a proper education, were those affections, which might have formed the happiness of her parents, thrown away upon persons and objects which they could in no way affect. The injudicious training which Anna had received was doubtless in some measure the cause of this evil; but religion alone can direct the depraved feelings of man into their proper channel, and, at the time we speak of, Anna had no idea of religion.

Anna answered Miss Parker's letter, and waited anxiously for another in return. But, as this second letter seemed to linger long on the road, she began to look about her for some other object to divert the tedium of her solitary life. She recollected that in a light closet, in a room generally appropriated as the sleeping apartment of the few guests who visited the farm, there were a number of books, which once belonged to an old lady who had lodged many years in the house, and died there. As neither of her parents were readers, these books had not been disturbed for many years; and it now struck Anna that she might find some amusement among them.

This idea was no sooner admitted than acted upon. She ran to the closet, and having examined the books, she found that they consisted of a mixture of the novels of the beginning and middle of the last century, with books of devotion and divinity in general. She did not stay to enquire into the nature of these last, but eagerly looked over the novels, among which she discovered all the works of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett, with many others, which possessed all the defects of these authors, without exhibiting their genius. From these she

[blocks in formation]

selected the one that seemed best to please her fancy, and carried it down stairs.

Mrs. Williams knew so little of the nature of books, that, like many other illiterate persons, she conceived, that any individual, if employed with a book, must be in the way to improvement; she therefore never interfered · with her daughter's studies. But Anna instinctively hid her book in her work-bag, she hardly knew wherefore, whenever her father came into the room; and, consequently, he had no opportunity either of approving or disapproving what she was about.

It was nearly two years before Anna had exhausted the contents of the closet; for some of these volumes were very closely printed. And, although she had sometimes found the tedium of a day relieved by the perusal of them, yet had they not failed to produce in her mind all the evil tendencies which these kind of writings are calculated to produce when indiscriminately read. She was dissatisfied before with her situation; but, from the representations of life which these books set before her, she had been led to form such ideas of the happiness to be met with in the world, that her own humble lot appeared to her more deplorable than ever.

There was no fair damsel in any of these romances who was not flattered or persecuted: yet Anna was fair; and nevertheless she was allowed to live quietly and sleep in peace. She considered this and many other circumstances in her lot as a very great injustice done to her; and yet she knew not whom to charge with these injuries. Were her parents to be blamed? or must she carry her discontent to a higher tribunal ? A certain kind of religious awe, however, prevented her from breaking out into open murmurs against the Ruler of all things; although her discontent and ingratitude were thereby not a whit diminished in the eyes of that God who is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. iv. 12.)

And now, my young friends, let me pause, and enquire, whether something like that state of mind, which we all see to be so highly blameable in the subject of this memoir, has not in some measure marked your own character. If so, attend seriously to the concluding part of this story, and learn how Anna was at length delivered from her impious pride and discontent; and

[ocr errors]

may you all, my dear young people, be favoured with equal relief.

Two years or rather more had passed away since Anna's removal from the town of L during which time her parents, though they could not account for it, had not found that comfort and satisfaction in her society which they had promised themselves—when a change took place in the little circle of Anna's acquaintance among the hills, which produced consequences of the highest importance. The rector of the parish dying, the benefice was given to a conscientious minister, who, though possessing a small property of his own independent of church preferment, yet resolved to reside in the parsonage-house, which was as mean and solitary a dwelling of the kind as can be supposed to exist in this highly privileged island. This parish, like many others in the west of Britain, had not been blessed with a resident minister during the memory of man; so that service had only been performed every other Sunday in its little barn-like church, where dust and damp continually strove for pre-eminence, adding to the gloom inspired by mouldering monuments and a preacher who knew no Saviour.

The repairing of the exterior of the parsonage, with sundry improvements of the interior, such as papering and white-washing, painting and glazing, foreran the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Mills; and when the garden was put to rights, the parsonage-house presented quite an inviting aspect, and could hardly be recognised for the desolate habitation which had before disgraced its name.

As soon as the very severest month of the winter was over, Mr. and Mrs. Mills arrived, preceded by waggonloads of books and neat furniture; and, by taking the week before them, they were tolerably settled in their new situation by the ensuing Sunday, when Mr. and Mrs. Williams, and Anna, called upon them, and were extremely delighted to find their new rector and his wife very agreeable persons. The farmer said that he hoped they should be good neighbours. And Mr. Mills took occasion to reply, that he hoped so too, and that in the true sense of the word: “for,” said he, only can be called a good neighbour who looks to the spiritual welfare of all around him."

os that person

Mr. and Mrs. Mills were not young people, and had no family, but were exceedingly attached to each other, and seemed to have but one object in view, which was the advancement of the interests of the invisible Church. Neither did Mr. Mills, as far as he was concerned, neglect the interest of the visible Church: for he did all that lay in his power to restore order to his long-neglected parish; in addition to which he pressed such persons as were able to assist him in repairing the church, and making it clean and comfortable.

Mr. and Mrs. Mills were much interested in the appearance of Anna, and tried to engage her in conversation; by which they presently found her extreme ignorance with respect to religion. Upon this occasion, Mr. Mills remarked to his wife, “ Our neighbours in the town we left were pleased to say that we should find this place dull, and have nothing to fill up our time; but I fear, on the contrary, that we shall not be able to accomplish one half of what we have to do for these few poor sheep in the wilderness.'

If we go forth in the strength of the Lord, and make mention of his righteousness, even of his only, (Psalm lxxi. 16.) we shall assuredly be able to prevail in this place,” replied Mrs. Mills; “ but if we depend on ourselves, probably we may never know that one soul has been given to us.”

As the story of Anna will unavoidably run into some length, and as the purport of it is not so much to display the doctrines of our holy religion, as to shew what mode of conduct they are calculated to produce, and to point out the dangerous mistake into which many are falling in this age of profession, of satisfying themselves with crying, "Lord, Lord," without shewing any considerable change in their habits of life; I shall not enter into any very detailed account of the means which Mr. and Mrs. Mills made use of to lead Anna from the darkness of her natural state to the glorious light of the Gospel. Suffice it to say, that they had not been acquainted with her a year, before they had reason to suppose that the eyes

of her understanding were opened, and that her heart was considerably affected by Gospel truths.

During her early intercourse with Mr. and Mrs. Mills, she, after the manner of young girls of seventeen or

eighteen, laid open her whole mind to her new friends. That these friends were worthy of her confidence, happened, by divine mercy, to be the case; but had it been otherwise, the confidence of Anna would probably have been no less entire. Among other things, she had held several strong arguments with her new acquaintance on the subject of her favourite books, and had strenuously maintained that they did not hurt her in the least, but, on the contrary, afforded her much innocent amusement in a place where she was utterly cut off from all the pleasures of society; and that they added so much to her happiness that she could not part with them.

“ As to these books amusing for a few hours, and in some instances, when well selected, improving the intellect and raising the reader something above ordinary gossip," replied Mrs. Mills, “ I can readily allow. But when they are received as ue views of life, and of what we are to expect in life, I much fear, that, instead of adding to our happiness, their tendency will be to prepare continual disappointments. I am not so gloomy, added the good lady, " as to maintain that there is no happiness to be found in this present state of being: no; I maintain rather that there is more happiness to be met with on earth than the most fanciful novel-writer ever described.”

Anna started, as if much surprised at this assertion, and Mrs. Mills went calmly on.

" There is a happiness," continued she, “beyond what was ever yet conceived by any unhallowed imagination, to be obtained, and enjoyed with little interruption, even in this frail body, and for a long succession of years. But the mischief which all irreligious writers of every denomination do to inexperienced persons is this -that they put them in the wrong road for obtaining this happiness. They add, by their sickly fancies and depraved imagery, to the natural blindness and wilfulness of fallen man, withdrawing him still further and further from the path of contentment and peace.

Could there actually be found so admired and fortunate a creature as Sir Charles Grandison, it might quickly be discovered that all those external circumstances which raised him above other men, were of a nature too poor and imperfect to afford him one moment's enjoyment of

« EelmineJätka »