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The undertaking on the part of the young people to learn to act, had been kept a secret from Mrs. Franklin, though she saw very plainly by the countenances and manner of the children, there was something going on among
them of much more than common interest. It was after tea, when all were assembled, that the important disclosure was first made.
“And now, my love,” said Mr. Franklin, addressing himself to Mrs. Franklin, “I have something to tell you respecting the young people, that will please as well as surprise you.” He then explained to her, that after carefully reading over the little books, "Learning to Think," and “Learning to Feel,” they had formed a determination among themselves to “ Learn to Act,” somehow or other coaxing him over to help them. “As by God's goodness and mercy," said he, "we are again met together in health and peace, we can hardly spend the evening more pleasantly and profitably than in hearing how far our children have proceeded in their undertaking. Come, Edward and Mary, let us see whether and your
brothers have at all benefited by our meetings. Give your mamma the best account of yourselves you can."
Edward and Mary, sometimes assisted by Thomas and little Peter, then began to relate as far as they could remember, to the great wonder of their mamma, most of what had
passed at their different meetings. “The qualities most necessary to enable us to act usefully and kindly,” said Edward, “are kind intentions, self-possession, knowledge, prudence, promptitude, patience, and persever
To learn to think, and learn to feel,
Becomes a youthful heart,
To act a worthy part." When the ice, as it were, was once broken, and the tongues of the young people fairly set at liberty, Mrs. Franklin had quite enough to listen to. Instances were brought forward in which the qualities mentioned by Edward were required. It was shown that self-possession might be attained, and that kind actions might be performed by all. Then followed acts of duty and obedience; of love and affection; of friendship, of kindness, and humanity; of prudence, usefulness, and gratitude, in relating which the children dwelt on such remarks as had made the deepest impression on their minds. Edward spoke of the poor negro who had sacrificed his life for his master's children; and told his mamma, that the most useful instrument or machine in the world was the human hand. Thomas related the affair of the spider, that had woven his web across the summer arbour; Mary gave a description of her father's accident in falling, and repeated the account of the poor
Hindoo woman, who was burned to death; and little Peter laughed heartily in telling the tale over again about farmer Bruff and his
magpie, crying out at the end of it, “I am coming! Hold him fast! Jack! Jack! bring me my blunderbuss !”
Two things were very plain to Mrs. Franklin—the one was, that they had treasured up with great care what had been said to them by their father; the other, that they were really in earnest in the desire to turn it to the best advantage. It was, therefore, with great sincerity that she expressed her pleasure and surprise.
It was very visible that the young people did not intend to be satisfied, with merely remembering the instructions they had received from their
papa, but desired to put them in practice. "We are not learning to commit to memory,” said Edward; “but we are learning to act.”. Edward had already set up a book, in which he wrote down all the information he could get to enable him to act with humanity and usefulness. Mary had begun to lay up money for the Missionary and Tract Societies, and to make articles of clothing for the poor with double alacrity; and Thomas had spoken to his friend William about learning to act, and undertaken to teach him as well as he could. As for little Peter, he was as much in earnest as any of them, for he had procured a piece of lime, that he might cure
the warts of everyone who came in his way, who was troubled with them, and he had given express injunctions to the cook that the flour dredger might always be kept in a corner of the shelf, for that he should be sure to want it, the very first time any one met with a scald or a burn.
After giving their account, the young people once more enjoyed a look at the presents brought them by their mamma; and the evening passed in peace and love, as it should ever pass in a Christian family. Peaceful and sweet was the season of devotion. Never did Mr. Franklin read God's holy word with greater reverence and delight, or set forth more clearly in his remarks thereon to his children, the love of the Redeemer in laying down his life for sinners. Fervent was his prayer at a throne of grace for the holy influences of the Holy Spirit; and joyous was the sacred strain that rose from the lips of the assembled throng in their hymn of thanksgiving.
“ Before Jehovah's awful throne,
He can create, and he destroy.
Made us of clay, and formed us men ;
We'll crowd thy gates with thankful sougs;
Shall fill thy courts with sounding praise. “ Wide as the world is thy command ;
Vast as eternity thy love;
RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY: INSTITUT ED 1799.