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“But Joanna, of course," said Mrs. Montague, "has, I am sure, had more prudence than to express to the dear girl her good opinion of her.”
“ I am not inclined to question Miss Joanna's_prudence,” returned Mr. Harwood; “nevertheless, I am convinced of this, that it is very difficult to conceal from any one with whom we associate familiarly, our opinion of their character. Were I compelled to associate continually with a man whom I considered a determined villain, I could not entirely conceal my feelings of dislike; it would be impossible; my opinion would appear; he could not but become sensible of it. Neither can the emotions of love, admiration, and esteem, be concealed. If you, Miss Joanna, believe Mademoiselle Eleanore to be a converted and decidedly religious character, you will be induced to address her as such. You will be led to speak to her as to an advanced Christian; and, by so doing, you may perhaps lead her into a fatal error, and cause her to suppose herself what she is not; and you may perhaps, by this injudicious conduct, (speaking after the manner of men,) prevent her from becoming what every Christian must wish her to be."
“ You have then made up your mind, Mr. Harwood," said Mrs. Montague, “that Eleanore is not yet the advanced Christian we suppose her to be ?"
“What business have 1,” he answered, “so to conclude respecting the young lady ?"
“Is she not one of your flock ?" said Joanna; "and should not a shepherd know his sheep?"
“He ought certainly to use discernment,” answered Mr. Harwood, and to pray for information on the subject; but he should not make his opinions known to others."
“Saucily enough remarked," said Mrs. Montague, laughing. “ Joanna, my dear, you are now answered.”
“I am half offended,” said Joanna.
“I hope,” replied Mr. Harwood,“ that I have said nothing rude or uncivil to you, Miss Joanna, or any thing disrespectful of your friend.' But when I recollect how extremely difficult it is to decide upon any character when I consider what the new nature really is, and the
false appearances by which a person may deceive others, and, which is still worse, deceive themselves, I always shrink from the practice of setting up any individual as a model, or of expressing strong confidence, too early, in religious professions."
“But the Scripture says," returned Joanna, " that a tree may be judged of by its fruits."
True,” returned Mr. Harwood, “but are we not too apt to decide, not by the fruit, but by the blossoms ?"
“But we have seen more than blossoms in Eleanore,” returned Joanna; we have seen fruit."
“Of what kind ?" said Mr. Harwood.
“There are many evidences in the character of Eleanore, continued Joanna, “which must surely denote a converted character. Consider the pleasure she takes in spiritual conversation; the activity she uses in doing good; the sense she often expresses of her own depravity; the zeal she displays for the conversion of her mother; besides a thousand other good qualities which she exhibits, and to which I could refer to convince your suspicious mind."
“I can believe,” returned Mr. Harwood, “from my knowledge of human nature, and especially of my own heart, that a young person may evince these dispositions which you have mentioned, and yet be in an unconverted state. Nay, I can believe more than this: that a person may have painful convictions of sin, a strong bent of the affections, a desire, like Esau, for repentance, and possess many rays of divine light, and have some taste of the good word of God, and yet remain in a state of irreligion. And I think this particularly likely to happen to an individual living in such a society as our own; where all the weight and influence of rank is thrown upon the side of religion; and where individual is aware that she shall be admired in proportion to her apparent piety.”
I believe you are right, after all, Mr. Harwood," said Mrs. Montague. “Perhaps, Joanna, we have dealt too much in flattery with Eleanore. We have dealt with her too much as an established Christian; not considering her youth and few advantages."
5 At any rate,” returned Joanna, “it is always well to
err on the side of charity, and to think better of any individual than he may deserve. But I cannot yet give up my good opinion of Eleanore.”
“No one wishes that you should give it up,” said Mr. Harwood; "but rather that you should investigate more closely, before you conclude any one to be a converted person, and an advanced Christian.” And pray, Sir,"
,” said Joanna,“ what do you consider to be the best evidence of a really converted character ?"
“Deep humility,” returned Mr. Harwood, “which occasions a person to rejoice in every good work, although self has had no hand in it; a steady pursuit of that which is right, without the incentives of human praise; a conscientious observance of private and holy duties; a meek and lowly aspect; without desire to be foremost in conversation ; without a wish to make self the hero and idol of our discourse; an entire and unshaken dependence on Christ; and a wish to follow him continually, though it be through the valley of humiliation and the shadow of death. And, to be candid, I do assure you, that I think I have seen more indications of a regenerate mind in the younger daughter of Madame Northington, than I ever observed in the elder."
“ You amaze me!" exclaimed Joanna.
And you give me a different view of the matter," said Mrs. Montague, "and it is worth consideration. But, pray tell me, on what particular parts of Antoinette's character you build your opinion.”
“Especially," said Mr. Harwood,“ on her conduct to her mother. Her extreme attention to the old lady is particularly interesting; and I think I never witnessed a more pleasing scene than that which presented itself on the day we came upon them so unexpectedly from the side of the wood."
“A pleasing scene !” said Mrs. Montague. “O, you are taken with the beauty of the exterior, Mr. Harwood -the thatched cottage, the pretty porch, the roses and woodbines, the venerable mother, and the blooming daughter sitting at her feet; though, by the by, the word venerable is not altogether suitable to my good cousin, Madame Northington."
Mr. Harwood smiled, but answered, seriously, “I make
it my prayer, that in matters of this kind even beauty
,” said Joanna, “you have now spoken out; and I must confess that I entirely dissent from your opinion. If boldness in a good cause is a proof of grace, Eleanore is as superior to her sister as light to darkness. I, indeed, know that Eleanore has incurred the displeasure of all her family, by the ardour she has evinced for the conversion of her mother; while Antoinette has not supported her by a single effort. But so it is; those who are zealous for religion are liable to be censured, even by the friends of religion itself.”
We do not presume to penetrate into the cause of this warmth and irritation which Joanna displayed on the subject; but Mr. Harwood thought it better to divert the conversation into another channel; and soon afterwards taking his leave, Mrs. Montague was obliged, for the rest of the evening, to listen to the censures of her favourite upon the short-sightedness of the young rector.
A few days after this conversation, the three young ladies happened to meet at the school in the wood before mentioned; and as they walked slowly home, on their return, they entered into the following discourse.
Eleanore began by speaking of her mother's erroneous views with respect to religion; complaining of her obstinate adherence to her corrupted faith, and of her excessive irritation when any hint was given of its not being the right one.
“And can you wonder at this, Eleanore,” said Antoinette, “when you consider that she was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, and taught, from her earliest years, to think all it inculcates perfectly and exclusively right?"
“I wonder," returned Joanna, " at no error of the human heart.”
“But in this case, surely,” said Antoinette, “there is much to be said by way of allowance."
“No more, Antoinette," returned Joanna, with a sarcastic smile, “than could be said for a heathen, who in a Christian country persists in his idolatries: nor do I consider the religion of the Papist any better than that of the Hindoo !"
"I am not defending it,” replied Antoinette, calmly. “What then is the tendency of your remark ?" said Eleanore.
"Nothing more," replied Antoinette, “than that my mother ought rather to be pitied than blamed for the error in which she persists; and that she ought to be treated with tenderness, at least, by her own children.”
“Tenderness !" repeated Joanna; “what is that tenderness which will not arouse a sleeping friend, who is in danger, if his sleep continue, of being enwrapt in eternal fire ?"
“We do not disagree about the necessity of awakening my mother,” said Antoinette, “but about the manner of so doing. I must say, I do not think
sister's conduct towards my mother judicious; and, indeed, its effect is decidedly bad; for, instead of removing prejudice, it makes her more attached to her delusions. Formerly I do not recollect seeing her much occupied by her forms; but of late she has been particularly tenacious of them.”
“ Then,” said Joanna, “it appears that thus much has been accomplished, that she has now some degree of religion, whereas she formerly had none."
"But if her religion is false," said Antoinette, “what good have we done by urging her to cling more closely to it?"
Any thing,” returned Joanna, “is better than a dead “ I cannot think a false security better," replied Antoinette.
“I wish," said Eleanore, “you would press my sister to say what she would have done for my mother; she neither wishes her, as you perceive, to be awakened, nor to sleep; to be shewn a new way, nor to be driven to her old one. Do, Joanna, make her explain herself, for VOL. VII.