Page images

The dusk of evening had arrived by the time he reached his humble apartments. His little tea-equipage was set ready, and on the table by it there lay his Bible, his Concordance, and his pen and ink. A bright fire shed its enlivening glow through all the room. He drew his chair to the table, and, sitting down, looked around him with an indescribable feeling of gratitude for this peaceful asylum wbich was granted him from the contending passions of the world. ·0 my

aunt!” he thought, "when shall I meet with a spirit like yours? I have been blessed with the acquaintance of many sincere Christians: but where shall I find one raised, like you, above the world, and while still in the flesh, dwelling, as it were, in the third heaven? How did your exalted and sanctified genius travel over the whole course of the Gospel scheme, from the creation of the world till the moment in which the dying Saviour on the cross cried out, 'It is finished !' How sweetly would you trace the Saviour through every type and shadow of the Mosaic dispensation! and how did your faith expatiate at large, and, as it were, at will, among the glorious scenes of prophecy amidst the regions of the restored paradise ! o that those Christians who enjoyed your society on earth were blessed with a portion of your excellent spirit, and that they would resolve to banish those selfish feelings, their indulgence of which must render their attempts at usefulness abortive!”

The next morning, Mr. Parnel returned Edmund's visit. The sight of the old room, and the many well-known pieces of furniture, with the oriel step on which he had often lounged with his Edmund while they studied their lessons, seemed to awaken all the tender and affectionate feelings of Francis. He forgot for a short time the young rector, with all his wonderful perplexities and peculiar situations, and talked for a while only of Mrs. Mary Stephens, and the happy hours he had spent in her society.

Edmund's little dinner was brought upon the table, served in the plainest way which strict neatness would permit. Edmund insisted on Mr. Parnel's partaking of it with him, and consequently the two friends sat down together.

Of that of which the heart is full the mouth will

speak: and Edmund inadvertently entered upon some of those views which his aunt had often set before them relative to the duty of ministers,-simple, holy, and scriptural views,-and depicted with all the force and vivacity which piety and ardent love for the Christian cause could possibly inspire.

Mr. Parnel remarked that these views were, indeed, beautiful, and he also spoke of the effect which Mrs. Stephens's conversations had produced on his mind, both at the time they were uttered, and even long after.“ But, my dear brother,” he added, “ the impracticability of their being realized did not then appear to us; we did not then perceive that these beautiful images were the mere creations of an imagination heated by enthusiasm. A very slight acquaintapce with the world must convince any man, that your good aunt's ideas of the character of the Christian minister are no more than a fancy picture.”

Edmund underwent a sudden shock on hearing this remark; but controlling his feelings, he said, “How so? --the character is drawn from Scripture!”

To this assertion Francis Parnel made no reply; but flying from the particular point in question, he fell again into the discussion of his own peculiar duties, and of what would be expected and required of himself in particular: and it is remarkable, that during the whole of the time in which he was thus engaged, he never once seemed to consider that Edmund Stephens had held for some years a situation nearly similar to that in which he himself was placed, and that he might, therefore, probably be able to assist him with the results of his experi

Edmund, however, remembering the heat which had been excited in his bosom during his visit to Francis the day before, and thinking that he had already spoken his mind with sufficient plainness, was careful not to express himself with warmth on the present occasion, especially as he was then in his own house; and therefore, after vainly making two or three attempts to introduce a more profitable subject, he contented himself with sustaining only a very inferior part in a conversation in which, from experience and natural abilities, he was certainly entitled to take the lead. And thus passed the hours till Mr. Parnel took his leave.


Edmund once more felt relieved in being left alone, and presently found consolation in pouring out his feelings before the throne of grace: but whether his prayers for Francis Parnel were answered we shall leave our readers to judge, when they shall have finished the perusal of this short, yet, we trust, not unprofitable history.

From that time, there was, for several months, but little intercourse between these two young men. Edmund, finding that, when they met, his friend was always so full of himself and his own concerns, that they could not converse either on equal or profitable terms, at length resolved to seek him out no longer, but to return to the steady performance of his own pastoral duties, which were so arranged as to leave him but a few hours daily for study. And, in the discharge of his several duties, he still took particular care to avoid all those encounters with worldly persons which might tend to interrupt the pious tranquillity of his own mind, feeling that his usefulness depended, humanly speaking, upon his own heart being habitually kept under the influence of Christian simplicity and holiness. He found, from close and constant observation, that whenever be addressed his people in a high or self-sufficient state of mind, his discourse, however eloquent, however filled with well-turned and finely polished periods, however rich in scriptural allusions and elegant applications, failed of its effect in reaching the heart; while discourses which seemed to want all these perfections, if proceeding from a broken and contrite spirit, appeared to excite feelings which the former had utterly failed in producing. He did not, either in one case or the other, attribute his success to his own eloquence; but he believed that a divine unction was frequently poured out upon him when he least expected it, and that when he was in an humble and lowly frame, a blessing wholly withheld at other times often attended his ministry; for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James iv. 6.)

These discoveries taught him to regard it as the indispensable duty of every teacher of the Gospel to live close to God; neither was he unmindful of an awful remark frequently made by his aunt respecting those persons who take upon themselves the charge of souls, whether in the capacity of ministers, schoolmasters, catechists, or writers: who, if they, either from indolence, carelessness, or the indulgence of selfish passions, neglect the duties which they have undertaken to fulfil, become, in fact, spiritual murderers, being manifest transgressors of the law which saith Thou shall do no murder, and are, it is to be feared, more heavy offenders than the man who commanded the destruction of the babes of Bethlehem, inasmuch as he could destroy only the bodies of these innocents, whereas, they who, professing to dispense to their fellow-men the bread of life, virtually withhold it from them, become as far as in them lies, the destroyers of the more noble part of


In this manner did this excellent young man reason with himself; and thus he continued his humble, quiet, and laborious course, with little interruption, for more than twelve months after the arrival of Mr. Parnel in the town.

The former friends, in the mean time, met but seldom; and when they did so, Mr. Parnel always pleaded want of time and the pressure of numerous important avocations as excuses for his not indulging himself so often as he said he could have wished in the


of Edmund. Yet neither want of time nor numerous avocations was the real cause of this estrangement. The busiest man must sometimes relax. And had Mr. Parnel thirsted after the society of his friend, he would certainly have found many occasions for enjoying it. But the truth was precisely this: Francis sighed after popularity, and he therefore could not endure to witness in Edmund those qualifications which procured him, unpretending as he was, that favour for which he himself longed,- but in vain. Mr. Stephens was endowed by nature with many of those advantages which attract admiration. His appearance was unusually prepossessing; his voice melodious, full, and agreeable; his elocution clear; his manner graceful; and his very simplicity particularly attractive. Mr. Parnel envied him in the possession of all these attractions; and the more so, because the possessor himself did not seem sensible of them: and, therefore, soon after his own arrival in the neighbourhood, he attempted to solace himself by endeavouring to find out something to the disadvantage of this man so generally admired.

The weakness of Mr. Parnel could not long be concealed from those about him; and as there was no want of idlers and busy-bodies who viewed Edmund with displeasure, because they regarded him as keeping himself too much aloof from their society, they presently put it into Mr. Parnel's head, that Mr. Stephens, notwithstanding his apparent humility, was no less eager for popularity than other men: and to this motive they attributed his apparent zeal for religion, his conciliatory manner towards other denominations of Christians, and his readiness to promote every good work which was proposed in the town.

Mr. Parnel's besetting sin was vanity, or, in other words, a kind of selfishness which would never let him be easy when he saw himself surpassed in any pursuit in which he desired to be foremost. It had from early youth been the object of his ambition to be a popular preacher, to become the leader in many good works, and to be as it were regarded as a father in Israel. Had his ambition taken any other direction, he might probably soon have detected the evil of these desires for selfexaltation; for with all his faults, (and these were, indeed, grievous,) there was still reason to think that the root of the matter was in him. But when his desires seemed to tend to an object apparently so laudable, he entertained no doubt of their propriety; and thus he became the slave of envy and of various other evil passions of a like dangerous tendency, without being aware that he was departing in the smallest degree from the strict line of Christian rectitude.

How little do those persons who fail to ascribe the honour of their good deeds to God, how little, indeed, do such persons even suspect the tendency of their conduct! how little are they aware of the murderous character of their desires after self-exaltation! and how far are they from allowing that these feelings, if freely indulged, would inevitably terminate in the dissolution of all order, and produce death and destruction under every modification !' Having already made a remark to this effect, we return to Francis Parnel.

The selfish feelings before mentioned constantly be

« EelmineJätka »