« PreviousContinue »
me the danger of dying in that hard and unconverted state so forcibly, that I shuddered to find on what a dreadful precipice I stood. He prayed with me, and for me, so earnestly, that at length God, who is sometimes pleased to magnify his own glory in awakening those who are dead in trespasses and sins, was pleased, of his free grace, to open my blind eyes, and soften my stony heart. I saw myself a sinner, and prayed to be delivered from the wrath of God, in comparison of which the poverty and disgrace I now suffered appeared as nothing. To a soul convinced of sin, the news of a Redeemer was a joyful sound. Instead of reproaching Providence, or blaming my parents, or abusing my husband, I now learnt to condemn myself, to adore that God who had not cut me off in my ige norance, to pray for pardon for the past, and grace for the time to come. I now desired to submit to penury and hunger, so that I might but live in the fear of God in this world, and enjoy his favor in the next. I now learnt to compare my present light sufferings, the consequence of my own sin, with those bitter sufferings of my Savior, which he endured for my sake; and I was ashamed of murmuring. But selfignorance, conceit, and vanity were so rooted in me, that my progress was very gradual, and I had the sorrow to feel how much the power of long bad habits keeps down the growth of religion in the heart, even after the principle itself has begun to take root. I was so ignorant of divine things, that I hardly knew words to frame a prayer; but when I got acquainted with the Psalms, I there learnt how to pour out the fulness of my heart, while in the Gospel I rejoiced to see what great things God had done for my soul.
“I now took down once more from the shelf Doddridge's Rise and Progress; and, O! with what new eyes did I read it! I now saw clearly, that not only the thief, and the drunkard, the murderer, and the adulterer, are sinners, for that I knew before; but I found that the unbeliever, the selfish, the proud, the worldly-minded, all, in short, who live without God in the world, are sinners. I did not now apply the reproofs I met with to my husband, or my father, or other people, as I used to do, but brought them home to myself. In this book I traced, with strong emotions, and close selfapplication, the sinner through all his course; his first awakening, his convictions, repentance, joys, sorrows, backsliding, and recovery, despondency, and delight, to a triumphant death-bed; and God was pleased to make it a chief instrument in bringing me to himself.—Here it is," continued Mrs. Incle, untying her little bundle, and taking out a book ; " accept it, my dear father, and I will pray that God may bless it to you, as he has done to me!
“When I was able to come down, I passed my time with these good old people, and soon won their affection. I was surprised to find they had very good sense, which I never had thought poor people could have; but, indeed, worldly persons do not know how much religion, while it mends the heart, enlightens the understanding also. I now regretted the evenings I had wasted in my solitary garret, when I might have passed them in reading the Bible with these good folks. This was their refreshing cordial after a weary day, which sweetened the pains of want and age. I one day expressed my surprise that my unfortunate husband, the son of such pious parents, should have turned out so ill: the poor old man said with tears, 'I fear we have been guilty of the sin of Eli; our love was of the wrong sort. Alas! like him, “we honored our son more than God," and God has smitten us for it. We showed him, by our example, what was right; but, through a false indulgence, we did not correct him for what was wrong. We were blind to his faults. He was a handsome boy, with sprightly parts : we took too much delight in those outward things. He soon got above our management, and became vain, idle, and extravagant; and when we sought to restrain him, it was then too late. We humbled ourselves before God; but he was pleased to make our sin become its own punishment. Timothy grew worse and worse; till he was forced to abscond for a misdemeanor ; after which we never saw him, but have often heard of him changing from one idle way of life to another, “ unstable as water;" he has been a footman, a soldier, a shopman, a gambler, and a strolling actor. With deep sorrow we trace back his vices to our ungoverned fondness; that lively and sharp wit, by which he has been able to carry on such a variety of wild schemes, might, if we had used him to bear reproof in his youth, have enabled him to have done great service for God and his country. But our flattery made him wise in his own conceit; and there is more hope of a fool than of him. We indulged our own vanity, and have destroyed his soul.'”
Here Mr. Worthy stopped Mrs. Incle, saying, that whenever he heard it lamented that the children of pious parents often turned out so ill, he could not help thinking, that there must be frequently something of this sort of error in the bringing them up : he knew, indeed, some instances to the contrary, in which the best means had failed ; but he believed,
that, from Eli the priest to Incle the laborer, much more than half the failures of this sort might be traced to some mistake, or vanity, or bad judgment, or sinful indulgence, in the parents.
“I now looked about," continued Mrs. Incle, “ in order to see in what I could assist my poor mother ; regretting, more heartily than she did, that I knew no one thing that was of any use. I was so desirous of humbling myself before God and her, that I offered even to try to wash.” “You wash!" exclaimed Bragwell, starting up with great emotion, “ Heaven forbid, that, with such a fortune and education, Miss Bragwell should be seen at a washing tub.” This vain father, who could bear to hear of her distresses and her sins, could not bear to hear of her washing. Mr. Worthy stopped him, saying, “ As to her fortune, you know you refused to give her any; and, as to her education, you see it had not taught her how to do any thing better. I am sorry you do not see, in this instance, the beauty of Christian humility. For my own part, I set a greater value on such an active proof of it, than on a whole volume of professions.” Mr. Bragwell did not quite understand this, and Mrs. Incle went on.-“What to do to get a penny, I knew not. Making of filagree, or fringe, or card-purses, or cutting out paper, or dancing and singing, was of no use in our village. The shopkeeper, indeed, would have taken me, if I had known any thing of accounts; and the clergyman could have got me a nursery maid's place, if I could have done good plain work. I made some awkward attempts to learn to spin and knit, when my mother's wheel or knitting lay by, but I spoiled both through my ignorance. At last, I luckily thought upon the fine netting I used to make for my trimmings, and it struck me that I might turn this to some little account. I procured some twine, and worked early and late, to make nets for fishermen, and cabbage-nets. I was so pleased that I had at last found an opportunity to show my good will by this mean work, that I regretted my little George was not big enough to contribute his share to our support by travelling about to sell my nets."
“Cabbage-nets !” exclaimed Bragwell; “ there is no bearing this.Cabbage-nets! My grandson hawk cabbagenets! How could you think of such a scandalous thing?” “Sir," said Mrs. Incle, mildly, “I am now convinced that nothing is scandalous which is not wicked. Besides, we were in want; and necessity, as well as piety, would have reconciled me to this mean trade." Mr. Bragwell groaned, and bade her go on.
" In the mean time, my little George grew a fine boy; and I adored the goodness of God, who, in the sweetness of maternal love, had given me a reward for many sufferings. Instead of indulging a gloomy distrust about the fate of this child, I now resigned him to the will of God. Instead of la. menting because he was not likely to be rich, I was resolved to bring him up with such notions as might make him contented to be poor. I thought, if I could subdue all vanity and selfishness in him, I should make him a happier man than if I had thousands to bestow on him; and I trusted, that I should be rewarded for every painful act of present self-denial, by the future virtue and happiness of my child. Can you believe it, my dear father, my days now passed not unhappily? I worked hard all day, and that alone is a source of happiness beyond what the idle can guess. After my child was asleep at night, I read a chapter in the Bible to my parents, whose eyes now began to fail them. We then thanked God over our frugal supper of potatoes, and talked over the holy men of old, the saints, and the martyrs, who would have thought our homely fare a luxury. We compared our peace, and liberty, and safety, with their bonds, and impris. onment, and tortures; and should have been ashamed of a murmur. We then joined in prayer, in which my absent parents and my husband were never forgotten, and went to rest in charity with the whole world, and at peace in our own souls."
“O, my forgiving child !” interrupted Mr. Bragwell, sobbing; “ and didst thou really pray for thy unnatural father? and didst thou lay thee down in rest and peace? Then, let me tell thee, thou wast better off than thy mother and I were. -But no more of this; go on.”
“ Whether my father-in-law had worked beyond his strength, in order to support me and my child, I know not, but he was taken dangerously ill. While he lay in this state, he received an account that my husband was dead in the West Indies of the yellow fever, which has carried off such numbers of our countrymen. . We all wept together, and prayed that his awful death might quicken us in preparing for our own. This shock, joined to the fatigue of nursing her sick husband, soon brought my poor mother to death's door. I nursed them both, and felt a satisfaction in giving them all I had to bestow—my attendance, my tears, and my prayers. 1, who was once so nice, and so proud, so disdainful in the midst of plenty, and so impatient under the smallest inconvenience, was now enabled to glorify God by my activity and
my submission. Though the sorrows of my heart were enlarged, I cast my burthen on Him who cares for the weary and heavy laden. After having watched by these poor people the whole night, I sat down to breakfast on my dry crust and coarse dish of tea, without a murmur : my greatest grief was, lest I should bring away the infection to my dear boy; for the fever was now become putrid. I prayed to know what it was my duty to do between my dying parents and my helpless child. To take care of the sick and aged seemed to be my first duty; so I offered up my child to Him who is the Father of the fatherless, and He in mercy spared him to me.
“ The cheerful piety with which these good people breathed their last, proved to me, that the temper of mind with which the pious poor commonly meet death, is the grand compensation made them by Providence for all the hardships of their inferior condition. If they have had few joys and comforts in life already, and have still fewer hopes in store, is not all fully made up to them by their being enabled to leave this world with stronger desires of heaven, and without those bitter regrets after the good things of this life, which add to the dying tortures of the worldly rich ? To the forlorn and destitute, death is not so terrible as it is to him who sits at ease in his possessions,' and who fears that this night his soul shall be required of him.”
Mr. Bragwell felt this remark more deeply than his daughter meant he should. He wept, and bade her proceed.
“I followed my departed parents to the same grave, and wept over them, but not as one who had no hope. They had neither houses nor lands to leave me, but they left me their Bible, their blessing, and their example; of which I humbly trust I shall feel the benefits, when all the riches of this world shall have an end. Their few effects, consisting of some poor household goods, and some working-tools, hardly sufficed to pay their funeral expenses. I was soon attacked with the same fever, and saw myself, as I thought, dying the second time: my danger was the same, but my views were changed. I now saw eternity in a more awful light than I had done before, when I wickedly thought death might be gloomily called upon as a refuge from every common trouble. Though I had still reason to be humbled on account of my sin, yet, by the grace of God, I saw Death stripped of his sting and robbed of his terrors, through Him who loved me, and gave himself for me;' and in the extremity of pain, 'my soul rejoiced in God my Savior.'.
“I recovered, however, and was chiefly supported by the