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thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor,
the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
When the lady of the manor came into possession of this additional property, she had already arrived at that period of life when women can no longer strictly be called beautiful. But she still retained a graceful person, together with an exceedingly animated and agreeable countenance: and what was peculiarly admirable in every part of her manners and deportment was, that she never seemed to be taken up with herself, a circumstance which preserved her from all those awkwardnesses which continually appear in their carriage who are not able to divest themselves of so unamiable a habit. This absence of every thing like selfish feeling in the lady we describe —and which, in a great measure, pervaded her whole character,--was effected, no doubt, by the secret and powerful influence of that Holy Spirit, whose office it is not only to control our natural evil tempers, but really and truly to regenerate the heart of sinful man. And wonderful was the effect of this freedom from low passions in producing a peculiar dignity, composure, and graciousness of carriage, which seemed to ennoble and beautify her whole person.
A few years after her settling in the manor-house, this lady, as I have before intimated, was left a widow; yet not a widow without hope, since she had every wellgrounded reason to believe, that, as her lamented partner had long been led to place his trust in the merits of his Redeemer, he was only removed from her to be admitted a little before her into that glory into which she also hoped to be received in due time, through the same blessed Saviour. Her grief therefore for his loss admitted of every alleviation that religion could offer; and she often looked upon his likeness in the military dress which he had worn in the early days of their happy union, with the sweet assurance that he was now arrived in that blessed country where there remaineth a rest for the people of God. (Heb. iv. 9.)
For some years after the death of her husband, who left her in full possession of his property during her life, she had been chiefly occupied by the education of her
two sons, for whose instruction she procured a pious and learned tutor; a man advanced in years, together with whom she laboured in the formation of their minds and manners, steadily using the means allowed and appointed by God, and looking in faith for his blessing upon those means.
At the period when those events and conversations took place which I mean particularly to enlarge upon in the life of this lady, the two young gentlemen above mentioned were travelling on the Continent with their venerable preceptor, while she resided alone in the mansion-house.
I date my narrative from a certain Sunday morning early in the spring. A sharp and frosty air, which during the night had covered every branch and every blade of grass with icicles, was now rendered more temperate by the rays of the sun breaking through fleecy clouds.
At this time the coach of the lady of the manor set out from the mansion-house for the church. The village bells were ringing, and groups of cottagers were seen issuing from their respective dwellings, and passing in different directions across the park, towards the church, while better dressed and more genteel persons appeared moving through the village street, as the coach drove along-presenting all together a scene of order and decency particularly suited to that holy day, the numbers still thickening as they approached the iron gates which led into the church-yard.
Thus frequently does the visible church in the present day, and the mixed multitude who form its members, supply the most lively picture which we can conceive of that glorious period, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. (Isaiah ii. 2.) And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah xxxv. 10.)
The public service was performed by a young clergyman, who had lately been presented to the living: a man of true piety, and one who promised, through the divine blessing, to become a successful labourer in the vineyard of his Lord.
This young man, whose name was Vernon, was niuch esteemed by the lady of the manor, who particularly admired in him that humble and teachable spirit, which is but too rarely observed (though particularly necessary) about those who are appointed to act as instructors of others. After service, as she was stepping into her carriage, Mr. Vernon came up to the door, and offered his services to accompany her home, observing, that as she had often asked him to dine with her on a Sunday, an honour which he had in general found himself obliged to decline, he would now, if agreeable, avail himself of her friendly offer. She expressed herself as being always glad to see him, and he in consequence took his place in the coach opposite to her.
Mr. Vernon having generally found his Sunday duties quite adequate to the entire employment of that sacred day, had almost invariably declined every Sunday invitation; and as the lady of the manor had always admitted his excuses with approbation, she was now not a little surprised at this voluntary offer of his company, But before the coach was well extricated from the crowd at the church-door, he began to explain the occasion of his present intrusion. He commenced by informing her, that the bishop had given him private notice of his intention to hold a confirmation in the village, at no very distant period. He then proceeded to state, that it was his own most anxious desire, with the divine assistance, to avail himself of this opportunity to call the attention of the younger part of the parish to those solemn truths which had hitherto heen evidently too much neglected among them. He then opened to the lady his plans for the effecting of this purpose, and informing her, that he proposed to give lectures on the subject of confirmation immediately after evening-service on the Sunday, and also, during the summer, on every Thursday evening. One part of his plan was, to receive the young men of the parish into his own house, for private examination at certain hours which he should appoint; and another was, to collect the young women of the lower orders for the same purpose, in the house of the village schoolmistress. “ But,” added he, “ there yet remains one description of young persons, whose instruction I consider of' infinite importance to society in general; and yet such is my youth and inexperience, that I should feel a particular awkwardness in conversing with them : in short,” continued he, “ the thing would be impracticable to me.”
“ You mean,” said the lady of the manor, “I presume, the
young females of higher rank in your parish.” “I do," said Mr. Vernon, “ and I feel that, if it were even possible for me to overcome my reluctance to such an undertaking, yet that, perhaps, it would be more prudent to decline it; especially,” continued he, “ if I could procure such a substitute as I desire.” Here he paused, and looked at the lady of the manor, who remained silently expecting what he had further to propose.
Mr. Vernon then proceeded to declare his wishes ; which were, if possible, to engage the lady of the manor to undertake this part of his duty for him, and to employ some of her leisure urs, until the period of the confirmation should arrive, in giving religious instruc-, tion to the young ladies of the parish.
The lady of the manor was somewhat perplexed by this request. She perceived however at once the propriety of it. She foresaw also, that great good might be thus accomplished, if God should bless the work. But while she was disposed to consider the proposal as a plain call of duty, her unaffected humility inclined her at the same time to hesitate on the ground of her unfitness for such an undertaking--and in this state of indecision she remained a moment silent.
This interval Mr. Vernon employed in urging his request, and using such arguments as he thought most calculated to influence a mind under the regulation of Christian principles. At length, the lady replied, “I ask only a short time for serious consideration, as well as for seeking superior direction, and I will give you my answer this evening.”
The remainder of the time which Mr. Vernon spent with the lady of the manor, and which was till eveningservice required his attendance, was for the most part employed in conversing upon the nature of confirmation, and enquiring into its origin ; for the purpose
of taining whether it ought to be considered as an ordinance of Scripture, or merely as a ceremony of man's appointment. Mr. Vernon said, that he had always been led to suppose that the rite was derived from a cer
tain passage in the Acts of the Apostles, informing us, that after the inhabitants of Samaria had been baptized and had received the word of God, the apostles St. Peter and St. John were sent to lay their hands on these new converts, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.-Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts viii. 14, 15, 17.)
The lady of the manor remarked, that she could not collect from this text any thing relative to confirmation of a nature so decisive as to enable her to say she considered the ordinance of divine appointment, or a duty indispensable to Christians. “ We cannot, in short, said she, “ put this ordinance on an equality with Baptism or the Lord's Supper, neither ought we to condemn those who reject it entirely.”
“I believe,” said Mr. Vernon, “ that we may plead the authority of the primitive church in its favour.”
“I require nothing to be said in its favour," replied the lady of the manor: “I myself approve the custom, and am convinced that it affords a precious opportunity of drawing the attention of the youthful mind to serious subjects at that period of life, when the world from without pours in all its temptations, and finds too many advocates in the evil tendencies of the heart. And I am persuaded that under these views the rulers of the church, in almost every period of its existence, have either adopted this very ceremony of confirmation, or appointed some other observance calculated to answer the same purpose.”
As soon as the lady of the manor had opportunity of being alone after this conversation, she prayed earnestly for the divine direction and assistance in an affair of such importance--and shortly after Mr. Vernon had retired from the sacred services of the day, he was gratified with the following note from her hand.
“ MY DEAR SIR,
“I FEEL myself entirely unequal to the work which you have appointed me; yet if it is the plea