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out from all that is good and animating? Mind not what they say, Mr. Burton,” added she, putting her hand upon
but come to us whenever you can get any one to fill your pulpit.”
Tea was now handed round; and, after tea, Anna still hoped for some of that enlivening Christian conversation which Miss Parker had so often described in her letters as constituting the chief charm of their religious societies at L But she hoped in vain; and the whole evening passed away in much such conversation as I have described above, with one or two vain efforts at something of a better kind, from one or two of the party. For, notwithstanding the description I have given of this assembly, I should not hesitate to say, that it included many
of the true servants of God: and Mr. Burton himself, though much injured by flattery, was a real wellwisher to religion, and had, at times, very humbling thoughts of himself, and very exalted views of his Saviour, as will appear hereafter.
But unless there be a person of superior abilities, as well as piety, to direct religious meetings of the kind in question; unless there be some charitable work to employ the hands, and some holy book to engage the mind; it is, I fear, generally found, that much fatness and insipidity creep into these assemblies; while religion is too often made the vehicle of flattery and the cloak of vanity.
After tea, Mr. Burton, and an elderly lady of the name of Bird, whom we shall have occasion to mention again, made some attempts to give the conversation a better turn. But although Mrs. Humphreys and Miss Parker spoke much, and seemed fully acquainted with every mode of speech used in the religious world, yet, when the company took their leave, Anna felt such an unaccountable depression of spirits, that she was glad to plead her journey as an excuse for going to bed immediately.
I will not enter into a detail of Anna's feelings, nor dwell upon the manner in which she reasoned with herself when alone, but merely give you the result of all these reasonings, which was an unfeigned thankoffering to her heavenly Father for her retired situation, her happy home, and the simple state of reli
gion under her own wise, and excellent, and truly holy pastor.
The next morning, at no very early hour, Anna was called to breakfast in Mrs. Parker's dressing-room. She there found the old lady and her daughters, but there was not the same appearance of cheerfulness in this family party as in that which usually assembled in the little parlour at Mr. Williams's farm. Mrs. Parker was making her ordinary complaint of having had a bad night, and that complaint was, as usual, almost totally disregarded by her daughters. Miss Jane was running on flippantly with an account of her last night's entertainment; and, in the mean time, Miss Parker looked as if she considered both her mother and sister as persons who had no sense of religion, and of whose conversion there was little or no hope. She accordingly, while pouring out the tea, preserved a cold silence, which Anna thought was ill calculated to make her religious profession amiable in the eyes of her relations.
After Anna had sat for some time considering what she should say to please all parties in this ill-assorted company, without hurting her own sense of right and wrong, Miss Jane threw her into the utmost confusion, by asking her, with an arch smile, how she had enjoyed herself the evening before? what she thought of Mrs. Humphreys? and if she did not find Mr. Burton's conversation truly edifying?
There is a certain tone, a peculiar and indescribable manner, by which the enemies of religion instantly make themselves known to each other, while they betray themselves to its real friends. The object of our present narrative is, indeed, to describe, and, as we hope, to correct, the defects of professors. But let it be understood, that it is not our purpose to draw a comparison between even the weakest and most erring Christian, and those daringly wicked characters who make a mockery of all that is serious, delighting to dwell upon the minutest miscarriages of serious professors, and holding up their defects to public ridicule.
It is but too true, that at this period, in which religion is generally accounted estimable, there may be a considerable portion of hollow professors in every Chris
tian society: yet it may please God to use the influence even of these for the advancement of much that is good, and, as it has been elegantly observed by a pious lady now living, to employ these fruitless trees for the same purpose as the gardener employs the hardy fir- to shelter and protect his more delicate plants. Is it not possible, that beneath the shadow of the loud professor, and amid the bustling appearance of the ostentatious multitude, who are now crying, “ Lord, Lord,” in our streets and public places, drowning by their vehemence the shouts of the mere worldling - is it not possible, I say, that a new race may rise up, who shall resemble the willows by the water-brooks, and the roses of the wilderness?
But to return to our narrative.-Miss Parker seemed to be highly irritated by these expressions of her sister, and Anna felt shocked and amazed. But neither of them being prepared with an answer, Miss Jane, as if to provoke her sister, proceeded to remark, that if Anna had any cases of conscience, or any mental difficulties, she could not do better than open her mind to Mr. Burton; as he was, notwithstanding his juvenile appearance, a man of deep experience, and had often proved himself a very valuable counsellor to much older persons than herself.
This remark seemed to excite a high degree of displeasure on the part of Miss Parker, who was scarcely restrained by the presence of Anna from expressing her feelings in very strong language; but, at the same time, it afforded so much gratification to Mrs. Parker, that the old lady, forgetting her bad night, burst into a loud fit of laughter, whereby she added not a little to the confusion of her young visitant. But before Anna could resolve what reply she ought to make to the sarcastic expressions of Miss Jane, she was relieved by the entrance of Mrs. Mary Bird, who, after having tapped lightly at the door, walked in without further ceremony.
There was nothing in the appearance of this Mrs. Bird, excepting perhaps a certain peculiar sweetness of countenance, which could attract the regards of any stranger: nevertheless this obscure person appeared to be one of the most sincere and humble Christians of whom the society of L-could boast.
The occasion of this lady's visit to Miss Parker was this. At the time when serious subjects began first to be agitated in L-, the young ladies had, in their zeal, established a large school for female children. Twelve of these ladies formed themselves into a committee, each of them entering into an agreement to superintend the school for one month during the year, În order to prevent confusion, many good laws and regulations had been drawn up by Mrs. Humphreys, and Mr. Burton had accepted the office of catechist. For one year, all went on well, till each lady had taken her turn. But, inasmuch as perseverance in well-doing is contrary to the general course of human nature, some of the young ladies, during the second year, began to complain of the weight of the undertaking; while those who were more willing than the rest frequently found that they had their neighbours' turns to take in the school as well as their own. The third year, the visitors fell off so much, that those who still continued willing to labour in this field, found the duty very burdensome; among whom poor Mrs. Mary Bird, having an infirm sister, with many other charitable calls, felt herself much incumbered by her school duties. The chief purpose therefore of her visit this morning to Miss Parker was to plead her inability to give up her whole time to the school, and to request that her young neighbour would not be weary of well-doing, but take her turn, as usual, with the children. that Miss Parker had that morning sent a note to Mrs. Bird, requesting her to take her month of duty, alleging, as her own excuse, a nervous complaint, and inclination to head-ache, which made the noise of the school insupportable to her.
Now Mrs. Mary Bird, who was herself a particularly simple open character, had not the smallest idea that Miss Parker could possibly have any objection to discuss this matter before her mother, her sister, and her friend; so, without circumlocution, she opened the cause in the audience of the above-mentioned persons, representing to Miss Parker, though in a very humble and Christianlike manner, the error of which she was guilty in giving up so laudable an undertaking on account of a trifling inconvenience.
For it seems,
Miss Parker replied, that she did not consider nervous feelings as trifling inconveniences; and added, that if Mrs. Bird knew what she suffered from headaches, she would not press her to endure the noise and closeness of the school.
Mrs. Mary Bird, with unaffected kindness, and entire freedom from suspicion of any affectation in the young lady, condoled with her on the state of her health; but added, that, if Miss Parker could not sit long in the school, it would greatly encourage the poor children, if she would now and then drop in for a few minutes, to dispense some of those pretty little rewards of her own needlework which used to give the children so much pleasure.
Miss Parker, whose self-complacency was somewhat restored by the last words which dropped from Mrs. Mary's lips, and which she instantly perceived had made a favourable impression on Anna, answered, that Mrs. Bird was very good in considering her feelings so kindly, and she assured her, that, if she would oblige her so far as to let her make her escape out of the school when her troublesome head-ache threatened her, she would make a point of often dropping in and seeing who was worthy of the little trifles she had to give.
Mrs. Bird seemed tolerably satisfied with these promises, and proposed, as it was a fine morning, that the young ladies should take advantage of it for a walk to the school.
“I should have the greatest pleasure imaginable in accompanying you, my dear Mrs. Bird, and shewing Anna our noble school-room,” replied Miss Parker, “had I not an engagement which cannot be put aside. You know, we are to meet this morning at Mrs. Humphreys's, to consult about a clothing-club for the poor': Mr. Burton is to be there, and every thing is to be settled to-day.”
Mrs. Mary Bird looked grave when she understood the nature of Miss Parker's engagement: which Miss Jane remarking, said, with a provoking smile, that she did not wonder at Mrs. Mary's being thrown into a state of trepidation on hearing of any new plan of usefulness to be set on foot at L