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For all this, we owe it no gratitude, but we owe it that philosophic appreciation of the good and evil of the past, which extracts a philanthropic agency for the future.
CONVERSATIONS AND TALES, ILLUSTRATIVE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH AND CHRISTIAN PRACTICE.
No. III.—PROFESSION AND PRACTICE. “My uncle informs me, Minna,” said Charles, as the former was one morning leaving the breakfast parlour, “ that he expects the Stanleys to call this forenoon; and, of course, you will not absent yourself anywhere to-day.”
“What! and does papa imagine that I shall see them? persons who are still in an unconverted state, and in whose company there will be nothing but worldly conversation spoken! No, no; the best security against temptation is flight."
The former endeavoured to avail himself of the present opportunity to convince her of the sin and folly of persisting in such conduct; but that he found was no easy matter; everything he brought forward, she combated with arguments both weak and unscriptural. “I again repeat, that I cannot see the Stanleys; besides, I engaged to accompany Miss Vincent on a visit to a woman who has been lately converted, and who yesterday acknowledged to Ellinor, that she was the vilest sinner upon earth;—oh, I assure you hers promises to be a most interesting case."
“ But your duty lies, first, in obedience to your father's wishes. You know Miss Mordaunt is spending the day with the Rivers's; you will shortly be placed at the head of my uncle's establishment,--and think what an appearance it will wear, if his own daughter refuses to receive his visiters!"
“ I can't help that,” answered the former sullenly; we cannot serve God and Mammon.”
“ It is wrong_indeed it is wrong, Minna, for you to act as you do; how differently does Alice Mordaunt conduct herself! Why will you not try to be more like her?”
“ Mr. Herbert,” and her face crimsoned with anger, “ I am not accountable to you for my behaviour; and you needn't perpetually bring in Miss Mordaunt as an example to me; besides, I think you have much to answer for, in initiating that young creature, as you do, in all the arts and allurements of this poor and perishing world.”
Charles. “ When you remember that, at her parents' death, Alice's fortune will be very limited, and that perhaps, she will be dependent on those very accomplishments for the means of support, you may probably change your opinion regarding them.
Minna. “ If you are not very exorbitant in your ideas, I should think your fortune would be sufficient for both.”
Mr. Herbert did not know exactly what she meant, but he felt himself colour slightly.
Minna. “ Yes, Charles, the heart is deceitful; and while you fancy you are actuated by Christian motives, I verily believe that you are swayed merely by those that are selfish and interested; but I never knew any individual so utterly blind to himself as you are.”
This was too much even for his governed nature to endure; and he rather severely told her to be more charitable in her manner of judging.
Minna. “I shall always judge by what I see, and I deem myself quite as capable of forming an opinion at fifteen, as you are at four-and-twenty; but recollect, this is the last time that I shall ever directly enter into any subject with you; we never agree, and as I have now no pleasure in your society, it is my decided desire, henceforward, to renounce your company entirely.”.
It was some moments before he could sufficiently command himself to reply; at length, in a voice faltering with emotion, he said, “ Be it so, my dear cousin; I know not how I have offended you; I desire to promote your happiness; but if my presence brings disquietude along with it, it will not be forced upon you; only this, remember, Minna, if ever ought disturbs your mind, think of me, your cousin, as you would your brother Henry.” And he immediately left the apartment. In thus renouncing the friendship of Herbert, Minna thought she did a very meritorious thing; and when conscience wbispered such treatment was a poor return for years of kindness and affection, she tried to believe the words of the Apostle, “What fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness; and what communion hath light with darkness?” as wholly applicable to her own situation.
She was obliged, however, to receive the Stanleys; her father would not yield, and an hour passed, in her estimation, in the most profitless manner. In the evening, Mr. Mornton drew a manuscript from his pocket, and, turning to his daughter, said, “I have written out the tale, my dear, which I promised to relate to you; if agreeable, I shall read it now.” Minna made no reply; and Henry, who had just come in, proposed waiting for Miss Mordaunt. He had hardly uttered the words, when she entered the room. “Always happy, Alice," said he, as his eye rested on her smiling countenance, while he placed himself on a chair beside her; “your very look would make the dullest person cheerful.”
“ I have spent a most delightful day,” she answered, throwing a cluster of beautiful roses in Minna’s lap; “and I regretted you were not all with me.”
Mr. M.“ In what manner did you employ yourselves?"
Alice. “In the forenoon, Mr. Rivers took me to see his various greenhouses, which contain the most rare collection of exotics I ever beheld; after which, I accompanied Mary and Catharine to the village school, conducted entirely under their superintendence; and the remainder of the afternoon was devoted to music.”
Minna. “ Poor sinful child of flesh! and you really derived pleasure from such employments as these!"
No one heeded her observation; and soon after, Mr. Mornton commenced reading the following tale.
MR. VILLARS was engaged in an extensive business, and would have been rich, had he been satisfied to live within a moderate income. At thirty, he married a young woman whose beauty and talents were her only recommendation. Vain, heartless, and extravagant, with little of the form of godliness, and still less of its power, the greater portion of her time was spent in the pursuit of fashionable pleasure; and the incense of adulation and flattery, daily offered up at her shrine, served but to increase that vanity which not all the counsels of maternal solicitude had been able to subdue. Amongst a numerous
acquaintance, many courted, but no one loved her; she was always in search after happiness, and in pursuing the phantom, she lost the reality. Contiguous to the dwelling of Mr. Villars, resided a widow lady, whom we shall introduce by the name of Mrs. Harman. In the whole town of C-, there was not a stricter professor of Christianity than she was; every outward ordinance was scrupulously attended to, while the weightier matters of the law she too often neglected. She might be described as one of those persons who “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
A prayer-meeting she would not have missed for the world; although she seldom prayed for holiness, probably ignorant of its being the renunciation of sin, and the realization of heavenly graces. Contrary to her determined resolve of only associating with those persons whom she believed to be conv she suddenly attached herself to Mrs. Villars. Such an act of self-denial her acquaintances believed could only be prompted by the desire of turning a soul from death;—they forgot that her own income was limited, and the other's was handsome. Be her motives what they might, these two individuals, so opposite in character, soon became intimate friends. About this period, Mr. Villars introduced to his wife, a Mr. and Mrs. Aldrige, to whom (as he had been under great obligations to the father of the latter) he begged she would show every attention. Mrs. Aldrige was young and strikingly beautiful; and, what was infinitely better, she was a woman of deep religious principle. Knowing that love is the fulfilling of the law, like her blessed Master, she delighted in going about doing good; her religion ended not in profession—she was a Christian in the world as well as in the sanctuary, in her usual transactions as in her devotional exercises; she associated with the indifferent as well as the pious, that she might thereby win more hearts to the Saviour; innocent amusements she moderately partook of, and the world she used as not abusing it, knowing that its fashion passeth away. But her whole earthly affection was centred in her husband and child, and her best hours were those spent in training the latter up in the paths of righteousness.
It may be imagined, that little sympathy could exist between two minds so diametrically opposite as her own
and Mrs. Villars'; the latter disliked her for her virtues, and hated her for her loveliness; her society she courted for the sake of tormenting her, and nothing that envy or malevolence could devise was wanting to injure the happiness and peace of that amiable woman. Mrs. Aldrige knew this, but she bore it with patience, and even tried to smile at her cutting innuendos. But she could not always endure the wrong, and one day told her husband that it was impossible for her to accompany him that evening to his friends. Why so, Maria? You have not,” and he smiled, “quarreled with my sister.” “ No, that is not very likely; but I know I shall meet with Mrs. Villarsperhaps, Mrs. Harman; and, indeed, I cannot see them.” “ Nonsense, my dear; your mind ought to rise superior to all the ill-natured nothings that either may utter; their sayings can never injure you."
But, Mrs. Aldrige again begged to be permitted to remain at home. “ Certainly, if going is so decidedly against your wishes; but I think you are wrong. Mrs. Harman I wonder not you dislike; she is invariably disagreeable, and cannot conceal her ill-nature, notwithstanding she professes so much;—I have really no patience for her hypocritical cant. Mrs. Villars might be tolerated; and we should not at least forget, that her husband and she were the first persons who showed us any attention when we came almost strangers to London.” “ All that may be very true; but I consider the latter the more dangerous character of the two." However, remembering that Christianity consisted in self-denial, she told her husband, that once more she would meet with the ladies in question.
About a month after the preceding dialogue, as Mrs. Aldrige returned home from a visit she had been paying to an intimate acquaintance, the servant mentioned that Mrs. Villars had called in her absence, and taken her daughter (a little girl of seven years of age) with her in the carriage, but that she promised to bring her home long before dinner. She had hardly finished speaking, when that lady made her appearance. "I fancy,” exclaimed she, with that air of pretended fondness which she knew so well how to assume, “ you thought I had run away with your little cherub; but it is long since I