Page images

plied, with a degree of restraint which but too strongly contirmed his friend in his first apprehension, namely, that his old companion had lost much of the strength and ardour of his early feelings.

Mr. Parnel was a man who, from the inelegance of his figure, and the contour of his features, from a certain something in his mode of elocution, and a want of patural grace in his movements, was never intended to shine as a public character; while Edmund Stephens was, on the contrary, one who, from the actual symmetry of his person, from the extraordinary spirituality of his mind, the sweetness of his temper, the warmth and vivacity of his feelings, and peculiar graciousness and humility of his manner, might, had he been so inclined, have easily acquired all that celebrity as a popular speaker or preacher, to which a person less gifted as to outward advantages must have aspired in vain.

It was, however, one of the greatest misfortunes to Mr. Parnel, that he wished to be admired by the world; and it is probable that he had always been sensible of the natural advantages which Edmund had over him, and that this thorn had long rankled in his heart, though it seems he felt not the irritation of the fester, till on occasion of the meeting of which we are now speaking, when he found himself, though a traveller, and, as the world would say, a fortunate man, suddenly and entirely eclipsed by a poor curate, whose least perfections, he was well aware, were those which were most visible to the world.

It was a remark of one of the finest Christian characters which has appeared in the present age, (to wit, the holy and heavenly Henry Martyn,) that the minister or teacher who would be blessed in the instructions he gives, must first seek the divine blessing on his own mind; and although the Articles of our Church form this decision, that in case of ungodly characters having authority in the ministration of the Word, yet, forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, it is lawful to use their ministry, (26th Article,) nevertheless, it is very certain, that, humanly speaking, there is nothing which retards the progress of the Gospel so much as the remaining eruptions of sin among the rulers of the Church, and among all such persons as are employed in the work of instruction. Hence the importance of a proper regulation of the passions among professors, and especially of those deeply destructive and even murderous feelings which consist in the desire of exalting self, and seeking the favour of man rather than that of God.

Edmund had been but a short time with Mr. Parnel, before he was well aware that his former humble friend made pretensions to be a man of fashion; not that he was, indeed, a ridiculous pretender of the kind, although his claims were supported in a way which appeared to Edmund wholly inconsistent with the simplicity and dignity of the ministerial character. Nevertheless he trusted that all was right at the bottom, notwithstanding this little appearance

of what he could not relish. He therefore accepted Mr. Parnel's invitation to dinner, and tried to hope that he was about to enjoy a delightful season with the friend of his heart.

And so, Edmund,” said Mr. Parnel, “ you are still at the old lodgings!-still precisely where I first knew you! Do you not find them rather dark ?" By no means," returned Edmund.

6. Those rooms seem to me the very regions of light and life; and I have more pleasure in contemplating the well-known Dutch tiles, than I should have in beholding the finest marble chimney-piece in Europe.”

“ The effect of an old association of ideas, my good fellow,” returned Mr. Parnel, somewhat pompously. ". The associations of our childhoood are very powerful!"

“ Yes," returned Edmund, “they are powerful, indeed; and I pray that mine may never be disturbed.”

The conversation then took another turn. Mr. Parnel talked of his pupil; of his adventures abroad; of Naples, and Paris; of the English society he had fallen into in these cities: and hence made it appear that he had suffered a great deal in the cause of religion among his irreligious countrymen abroad.

Edmund thought that this was very probable, and said, that his friend had reason to give glory to God for the support which had been vouchsafed him under circumstances of so trying a nature.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Parnel then spoke of the extraordinary coincidences by which at so early an age he was placed in his present very responsible situation; and, with an air of perplexity, said, that he foresaw certain peculiar difficulties which he should have to encounter-difficulties of no ordinary description, and with which he felt himself quite overwhelmed.

« How so?” said Edmund. - Wherein does your situation differ from that of other ministers who have the charge of souls?”

Mr. Parnel fixed his eyes on Edmund with a stare of astonishment, and said, "Surely, my good friend, you do not think

my situation a common one, comparing it only with your own! Consider how much greater my responsibility is than yours. You are acting only for another. I have no one to whom I can look up for advice and direction. If any thing is amiss, I alone am to be blamed; while you are protected beneath the wing of your superior, and if fault is found with you, he is to share in your condemnation.'

“Remember," returned Edmund, " that my rector is a man of eighty, and quite past all concern for his people.”

It may be so," returned Mr. Parnel, “ that is, you and I know it to be so; but the world only knows you, Mr. Stephens, as the assistant of Dr. Fieldhouse, and you are always supposed to be acting under his sanction."

Edmund bowed, not feeling disposed to speak; and Mr. Parnel having waited a moment for his reply, proceeded to this effect.—“ You do not appear, Edmund, by any means to be aware of my difficulties. Permit me to state them to you, and you will then be better able to judge of my situation. " It is, I trust, and ever has been, my wish, in

my character of a spiritual teacher, to act with faithfulnessto fear no man, and to seek only the glory of God. Nevertheless, my knowledge of life has brought me to this conviction—that unless I can preserve the respect and affection of my people, and the good opinion of the world at large, my usefulness will be utterly marred.

“ Now, when I consider the state of my parish; when I am made to understand that all the best families of the town, nay, indeed, all those of any consequence in our society, are included in it; when I am told that all my people are persons of affluence, and some sort of fashion, that they have never been in the habit of hearing the truth, and cannot be expected to bear it, is it possible that I should be free from apprehensions? And, moreover, when I have this assurance, that if I am more diligent and decided than my predecessor, I shall also incur the displeasure of the clergy of the diocese in a body, and perhaps come under the stigma of the bishop, is it possible for me, I ask, to be without uneasiness ?”

“In the first place,” returned Edmund, “I do not see wherefore you should fear your congregation more than I and others do. Are we not all aware that the Gospel is disgusting to the natural man? and that, when first heard, it will awaken all the angry passions of his nature? But have we not this assurance, that, if we are not weary of well-doing, all these difficulties shall disappear? For is not He that is with us stronger than he that is against us? And, in the second place, I would say, that I think you are judging very harshly of your superiors and brethren in the ministry, many of whom will admire and commend your diligence, and others will imitate

and if


do not first throw down the gauntlet, most of the rest will let you alone. For the admiration and respect of one, at least, I can answer."

Meaning yourself, Edmund ?” replied Mr. Parnel. Yes, I trust that I shall always possess and deserve your affection; but I am speaking of the higher orders, the beneficed clergy of the diocese. If I introduce any thing new, if I make any innovation into the old order of things; I shall certainly draw them all upon me.

I am assured of it; and I hope that I am prepared, though I am fully aware of the singularly difficult and painful situation in which I stand.”

“O, brother! brother!” said Edmund, rising up, and smiling, “ you have gone through the University with eclat, you

have made the grand tour of Europe, you are converted into a respectable rector; and yet you are precisely the same Francis Parnel who was at loggerheads with his schoolfellows on the second day of his establishment at school.”

“What do you mean?” replied the other, reddening violently: “explain yourself.

explain yourself. You, at least, have a lively recollection of my schoolday follies. Come, explain yourself."

“Do not be offended, my good friend,” subjoined Edmund: “I meant not to hurt your feelings; and yet I foresee, that you will not have been a year in this place, before you will be at daggers-drawing-to use a strong expression-with every order and denomination of persons in the town and neighbourhood.”

How so, Stephens?” said Mr. Parnel.

“In the first place,” returned Edmund, “you will set the irreligious world against you; not so much by telling them the truth as it is in Jesus, as by informing them that you expect their hatred. You will bring the higher ranks of the clergy upon you by letting them know that you expect their displeasure, and that you consider them as the enemies of extraordinary seriousness; and you will undoubtedly hit upon some other method of making yourself equally disagreeable to what is called the low Church. I know that it is impossible to please all men: but surely there is a wide difference between a mean and shuffling conduct, and that which breathes universal defiance.'

“ Universal defiance !" repeated Mr. Parnel: “why, Edmund, surely you cannot suppose that I shall reveal those feelings to others which I have uttered only in confidence to the oldest friend I have in the world?

“ Not if you can help it,” replied Edmund.

“ Not if I can help it!" returned the other: “why, Stephens, do you suppose that I have no discretion whatever?

“I think of you,” said Edmund, “ as I should of any other man who should allow himself in the like reflections. By dwelling so much and so incessantly on your own concerns, your own trials, the opinion of others respecting you, and the persecutions to which you may be liable, your mind contracts a soreness which wholly unfits you for that contact with society to which every man is exposed. On the slightest touch and the gentlest rub, being so situated, you will naturally start and wince. In every casual circumstance, you will see the fulfilment of some of your apprehensions, and you will naturally be led to betray your feelings where you should not;

« EelmineJätka »