« AnteriorContinuar »
eurely, it was through a succession of broils, invasions, insurrections, and continually attempted assassinations. Beside the efforts of James to regain his throne, and endless political contentions, William found himself distracted with the religious dissensions of the people, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Dissenters of every denomination were contending for privilege and power, while piety and devotion were almost equally lost amongst all. William was constrained more than once to wish he had never been king of England, and was on the point of leaving the kingdom, and committing the government to the queen. In the midst of all this confu sion, James appeared in Ireland, and while William was obliged to repair thither to meet his enemies in the field, Mary was left in charge of the administration at home. It was a new scene to her; she had for above sixteen months made so little figure in business, that those who imagined that every woman of sense loved to be meddling, concluded that she had a small proportion of it, because she lived so abstracted from all affairs. Her behaviour was indeed very exemplary: she was exactly regular both in her private and publick devotions: she was much in her closet and read a great deal: she was often busy at work, and seemed to employ her time and thoughts in any thing rather than matters of state: her conversation was lively and obliging; every thing in her was easy and natural; she was singular in great charities to the poor; of whom, as there are always great numbers about courts, so the crowds of persons of quality who fled from Ireland, drew from her liberal supplies: all this was nothing to the publick. If the king talked with her of affairs, it was in so private a way, that few seemed to believe it; Lord Shrewsbury said that the king had upon many occasions said to him, that though he could not hit on the right way of pleasing England, he was confident she would; and that we should all be very happy under her. During her temporary administration, the queen balanced all things with an extra
ordinary temper; and became universally beloved and admired by all around her."
Meantime the dangers increased on every side. James had some success in Ireland, the French were masters at sea, and William, beside the perils of the field, had good reason to fear assassination from his popish subjects. In all this time of fear and disorder, the queen showed an extraordinary firmness; for though she was full of dismal thoughts, yet she put on her ordinary cheerfulness when she appeared in publick, and shewed no unbecoming concern: her behaviour was in all respects heroical; she apprehended the greatness of our danger; but she committed herself to God, and was resolved to expose herself, if occasion should require it;" for invasion in England was feared from the French, while William was engaged in Ireland. The battle of the Boyne greatly lessened these dangers: when news of it was brought to Mary, her joy seemed in suspense, till she heard that the late king, her father, had escaped. Speaking of the state of the country soon after this, the historian writes
"It had been happy for us, if such dismal accidents had struck us with a deeper sense of the judgment of God. We were indeed brought to more of an outward face of virtue and sobriety: and the great example that the king and queen set the nation, had made some considerable alterations as to publick practices; a disbelief of revealed religion, and a profane mocking at the Christian faith, and the mysteries of it, became avoided and scandalous. The queen, in the king's absence, gave orders to execute the laws against drunkenness, swearing, and the profanation of the Lord's day: and sent directions over England to all magistrates to do their duty in executing them; to which the king joined his authority, upon his return to England. Yet the Reformation of manners, which some zealous men studied to promote, went on but slowly: many of the inferior magistrates were not only very remiss, but very faulty
themselves; they did all they could to discourage those who endeavoured to have vice suppressed and punished: and it must be confessed, that the behaviour of many clergymen gave atheists no small advantage."
"Upon the whole, the nation was falling under such a general corruption, both as to morals and principles, and that was so much spread among all sorts of people, that it gave us great apprehensions of heavy judgments from Heaven."
Mary's pious mind must naturally suffer much from the contemplation of her people's corruption, feeling in some degree herself responsible for their improvement, yet finding it beyond even the power and influence of royalty to infuse that principle of religion, which could alone give a check to their immoralities. We find in another account of her that this was in fact the case, and that Mary's mind suffered much depression on account of her ill success- "How good soever she was in herself, she carried a heavy load upon her mind: the deep sense she had of the guilt and judgments that were hanging over us, as no doubt it gave her many afflicting thoughts in the presence of God, so it broke often out in many sad strains, to those to whom she gave her thoughts freer vent. The impieties and blasphemies, the open contempt of religion, and the scorn of virtue, that she heard on all sides, and in so many different corners of the nation, gave her a secret horror, and offered so black a prospect, that it filled her with melancholy reflections, and engaged her in much secret mourn ing. This touched her the more sensibly, when she heard that some, who pretended to much zeal for the crown, and the present establishment, seemed from thence to think they had some right to be indulged in their licentiousness and other irregularities. She often said, Can a blessing be expected from such hands, or any thing that must pass through them?' She had a just esteem for all persons as she found them truly vir tuous and religious: nor could any other considerations
have a great effect upon her, when these were wanting. She made a great difference between those that were convinced of the principles of religion, how fatally, soever they might be shut up from having their due effect on them, and those who had quite thrown them off: where these were quite extinguished, no hope was left, nor foundation to build upon; but where they remained, how feeble or inactive soever, there was a seed still within them, that at some time or other, and upon some happy occasion might shoot and grow. Next to open iniquity, the coldness, the want of heat and life in those who pretended to religion, the deadness and disunion of the whole body of Protestants, and the weakness, the humours, and affectations, of some who seemed to have good intentions, did very sensibly affect her. She said often with feeling and cutting regret, Can such dry bones live?' The last great project that her thoughts were working upon, with relation to a noble and royal provision for maimed and decayed seamen, was particularly designed to be so constituted, as to put them in a probable way of ending their days in the fear of God." She hearkened carefully to every thing that seemed to give some hope that the next generation should be better than the present, with particular attention. She heard of a spirit of piety and devotion that was spreading itself among the youth of this great city with a true satisfaction; she inquired often and much about it, and was glad to hear it went on and prevailed. "She lamented that whereas the devotions of the Church of Rome were all show, and made up of pomp and pageantry, that we were too bare and naked, and practised not enough to entertain a serious temper, or a warm and affectionate heart: we might have light enough to direct, but we wanted flame to raise an exalted devotion."
(To be continued.)
THE LISTENER.-No. XXVI.
A FRIEND requested me, a short time since, to write a paper on CONSISTENCY. I was well pleased with the suggestion; it is a pleasant thing to have a subject given, when every body writes so much, that subjects are growing scarce: I thought I would quickly set about it, and indite a paper describing the beauty, and loveliness, and excellence of CONSISTENCY. But when I would have gone to work to paint the portrait, I found myself in no small difficulty for where was the original? Had I any acquaintance with it? Had I ever seen it? Imagination may make a drawing, but a portrait it cannot make -and what would it avail me to describe an imaginary being, whose features none would recognize, more especially when I profess to draw always from the life, and describe only what I hear and see around me. What was to be done? I could think of but one way of emerging from this great difficulty, without breaking the promise I had given to touch the subject. If there were such a thing as CONSISTENCY, and I had never heard it doubted, it must be somewhere to be found-why not look after it? I must of course have seen it often, and my ignorance of her exact features, and the contour of her countenance altogether, must be the result of inattention or forgetfulness. This might be repaired, as ignorance mostly may, by diligent research-and I resolved that it should be so. I resolved to listen every where, and look at every thing, and enquire of every body, till I should find my subject, and so have no more to do but to paint the resemblance of it. So I put my pencil in my pocket-and my Indian-rubber, lest I should sketch a feature wrong-and patiently resolved to delay the portrait till I had seen the individual, whom I did not doubt to meet in some of the ordinary walks of society, now that I had seriously set myself to watch