« AnteriorContinuar »
and many others. Yet, although impressed with unfavourable sentiments concerning the church of Rome, I consoled myself with the reflection, that the same murderous principle was imbibed by those who had separated from us.
It sometimes amazes me, that so excellent a person as Calvin should consent to the burning of Servetus; not to mention other similar tragedies performed in England the moment the Reformers got the power into their own hands. At first view it seems as if the contest between them and the catholics was, which of the two parties had the greatest right to persecute. But I am now persuaded, that wherever the civil magistrate is excited by the adversary of mankind to favour one sect or denomination of Christians above the rest, and to bestow the wealtk of the people upon it, Satan will always enter with that sop, and the betraying of Christ and his cause, and the murder of his faithful servants, will inevitably follow.
About this time last year my father and sister and I were at a friend's house in London, upon a visit, where we stayed a month, the longest month I ever sav. One day my sister and I crossed Smithfield, to go through the Cloisters in our way to Cheapside. I looked around me and though I did all in my power to suppress my emotion, could not avoid shedding tears at the remembrance of the many servants of Christ who had sealed the truth in that place with their blood. My sister asked me what was the matter. When I was able to speak, I told her truly that I was grieved at the heart to see a place where so many protestants had been put to death, to the reproach and scandal of our religion.
Indeed, said my sister, I am not sorry about it. I have often heard my father say it was their own fault. If they would have renounced their heresy, even at the stake, their lives would have been spared.
Ah, Maria, cried I, how would you think a protestant reasoned, if you were fastened to a stake for being a catholic, and he were to tell you, that if you were burned it would be your own fault, since if you would renounce your heresy, even at the stake, you might live?
The case, replied she, is not parallel ; is there no difference between catholics and heretics?
Too little, answered I, between catholics and some protestants ; for catholics and protestants have murdered each other on a religious account, which was imitating lions and tigers more than the meek and lowly Jesus, who went about doing good, and came to save men's lives, and not to destroy them.
You may say what you please, interrupted my sister angrily ; but in my opinion, we ought no more to pity heretics, than snakes or vermin, which were made to be destroyed.-I made no reply, as I perceived that my sister and I saw things in a very different light, not only in this, but in almost every thing besides.
We had a good deal of altercation while we were in London about dress; my sister being fond of making a gay appearance, and I choosing to dress very plain. She wore a high head-dress, in the very top of the fashion ; and she could not persuade me, either with good words or chiding, to dress any otherwise than I had been used to do; for I always abhorred the fickle, fantastic extremes in the dresses of our sex, and my father was of my mind. My sister was very angry. She thought it decent, she said, to follow the fashion, however ridiculous it might seem, because custom gave a sanction to every thing; adding, that there was as much pride in aiming to appear singular, as in dressing like other people. However specious this reasoning might be, I could not think of spending half my time under the hands of a hair-dresser, that I might have twelve inches added to my stature. I therefore was sufficiently unfashionable, and was, by many persons, despised as a plain country-girl ; which made Maria peevishly tell me, that a fine face and shape were thrown away upon me; and that people did not deserve such things who did not know, how to make use of them. Or rather, cried she, you are a little too conscious of your own perfections, and look down with contempt on the aid you might receive from dress. I generally made no answer to compliments of this kind, since all the wrangling in the world would not have changed our sentiments. I was glad when I had returned into the country. To those who can take pleasure in masquerades, routs, and assemblies, together with theatrical entertainments and other public amusements, I will thankfully resign my share of them. I would much rather converse with trees and flowers, or the brute creation, than with mankind. The fulsome ffattery and artful designs of some; the self-sufficiency, the haughty looks, and the sneering pride of others; and the poor, vain pursuits of almost all; have given me an unfavourable opinion of human nature. O my dear friends, if I had lived in London a hundred years, and had spent them in the manner we did that one month, the whole time would not have yielded me half the pleasure I experienced in one quarter of an hour about a month after Qur return.
It was about noon, when, as I was walking in the wil. derness, meditating upon divine subjects, and praying to be guided in the way that I should go, I at length came to one of those seats which are cut in the hedge that is next the closes, and sat down. Hearing somebody cough just by me, and looking through a small aperture, I be.. held Thomas Livingstone, who had been scouring the ditch, on the other side of the hedge. I knew him, but had never spoken to him in my life. Having prepared to dine, by laying on the bank a piece of barley bread, a bit of cheese, a little salt in a paper, and an onion, which things he had taken out of a basket, he lifted up his hands before he began his frugal repast, and said, I thank thee, O my God, for the food which thou hast provided for the nourishment of this frail body; but above all I bless thee for Jesus Christ, and that hope of eternal life which thou hast given me through him!
How was I surprised and delighted! I ran a little fur. ther, and falling on my knees, thanked God that I had found a Christian. This short thanksgiving had no resemblance to a string of prayers, hurried over, and repeated
by number. I earnestly desired a more intimate acquaintance with this poor, rich man.
Ye sons and daughters of riot and dissipation! if ye delight in power, affluence, and grandeur, behold in this hedg. er and ditcher, an angel in disguise; one, as much superior to thousands whom an undiscerning world dignifies with the titles of august and mighty, as those earthly gods are to the insect they crush beneath their feet. Alas! how will they bear the dreadful change that in one year, or day, or hour, may take place, when such as he shall be comforted in the presence of the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, and made companions of, and placed upon a level with myriads of angels, while they shall open their eyes in the regions of despair! They think to quench the flames of hell by disbelieving their reality; nor will they be convinced of their error till they have full and feeling evidence. Well ! they must wait a very little while, and every scruple will be removed, and no place left for doubt.
The apparent happiness of this poor man, blessing God for his barley bread, and possessing a hope of salvation by the Redeemer, inspired me with a multitude of these reflections; and when I contrasted with it the superb, mag. nificent, and gay things I had seen in London, they shrank into nothing. Hitherto I had supposed that the protestants of the present were a different kind of people from those who laid down their lives in Smithfield : but I now saw that I had not been acquainted with protestants of the right kind, and that true Christians are hidden from the world; and those words of John occurred to my mind, The world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
I determined to go and see this good man, whose wife I knew, as she frequently assists our cook when we have more company than usual. But I had a terrible inward struggle; 1 feared that if I put myself in the way of temptation, I might become what my friends term a heretic. On the other hand, I considered that I was nineteen years of age, and able to discern between good and evil; and that it was my duty to try all things, and hold fast that which is good. I also thought that if I should perish, it would be an aggravation to my guilt that God had pointed out the means whereby I might understand his will, and that I had neglected them. .
I went to our friend's house ; but like Nicodemus I stayed till night. The good man was at prayer. I shall never forget with what fervour he addressed the Majesty of heaven and earth: my heart burnt within me. How una like, said I to myself, is this to saying prayers in an unknown tongue, or to running them over as a school-boy repeats his task. This man prays as if he was petitioning for his life at the bar of his judge!
When he had finished. I went in. The good people were surprised to see me, especially at that time of night. My father had taught us never to make an excuse. My children, he would say, whenever it is improper to tell the undisguised truth, it becomes you not to speak at all. I therefore told my friend without reserve how long I had been uneasy in my mind in consequence of reading Fox's History of the Martyrs, and also that I had heard him ada dress the Divine. Being before he began his meal, and I concluded with observing, that to be delivered from the wrath to come was a matter of such infinite importance, that I thought it became every person to use his utmost endeavour not to be mistaken.
While I was speaking, I perceived Mary, my friend's wife, in tears; and even Thomas, was so inoved, that a drop now and then started from his eye, and trickled down his cheek. How beautiful is that trait in the character of Christians which is recommended by the apostle, that they look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
After a little pause he said, my dear young lady, both you and your family, from whom I have received much friendship, have many times been the subjects of my earnest prayers, and I trust that God has heurd my request; but it is necessary before we build to sit down and count the cost. I know your father 100 well to suppose that he