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not divert himself; when a bit of fun costs only a penny, and a man can spare that penny, there is no harm done. When it is very hot, or very wet, and I come in to rest, and have drunk my mug of cider, I like to take up a bit of a jest-book, or a comical story, to make me laugh."
"O, Mr. Hoskins!" replied Mrs. Jones, "when you come in to rest from a burning sun, or shower, do you never think of Him whose sun it is that is ripening your corn 1 or whose shower is filling the ear, or causing the grass to grow? I could tell you of some books which would strengthen such thoughts, whereas such as you read only serve to put them out of your head."
Mrs. Jones having taken pains to let Mr. Hoskins know, that all the genteel and wealthy people had subscribed, he at last said, "Why, as to the matter of that, I do not value a crown; only I think it might be better bestowed; and I am afraid my own workmen will fly in my face, if once they are made scholars; and that they will think themselves too good to work." "Now you talk soberly, and give your reasons," said Mrs. Jones; "weak as they are, they deserve an answer. Do you think that either man, woman, or child, ever did his duty the worse, only because he knew it the better?" "No, perhaps not." "Now, the whole extent of learning which we intend to give the poor, is only to enable them to read the Bible; a book which brings to us the glad tidings of salvation; in which every duty is explained, every doctrine brought into practice, and the highest truths made level to the meanest understanding. The knowledge of that book, and its practical influence on the heart, is the best security you can have, both for the industry and obedience of your servants. Now, can you think any man will be the worse servant for being a good Christian?" "Perhaps not." "Are not the duties of children, of servants, and the poor, individually and expressly set forth in the Bible?" "Yes." "Do you think any duties are likely to be so well performed from any human motives, such as fear or prudence, as from those religious motives which are backed with the sanction of rewards and punishments, of heaven or hell 1 Even upon your own principles of worldly policy, do you think a poor man is not less likely to steal a sheep or a horse, who was taught, when a boy, that it was a sin, that it was breaking a commandment, to rob a hen-roost or an orchard, than one who has been bred in ignorance of God's law? Will your property be secured so effectually by the stocks on the green, as by teaching the boys in the school, 'that for all these things God will bring them into judgment'? Is a poor fellow, who can read his Bible, so likely to sleep or to drink away his few hours of leisure, as one who cannot read? He may, and he often does, make a bad use of his reading; but I doubt he would have been as bad without it; and the hours spent in learning to read, will always have been among the most harmless ones of his life."
"Well, madam," said the farmer, "if you do not think that religion will spoil my young servants, I do not care if you do put me down for half a guinea. What has farmer Dobson given?" "Half a guinea," said Mrs. Jones. "Well," cried the farmer, "it shall never be said I do not give more than he, who is only a renter. Dobson half a guinea! Why, he wears his coat as thread-bare as a laborer." "Perhaps," replied Mrs. Jones, "that is one reason why he gives so much." "Well, put me down a guinea," cried the farmer; "as scarce as guineas are just now, I'll never be put upon the same footing with Dobson, neither." "Yes, and you must exert yourself, besides, in insisting that your workmen send their children, and often look into the school yourself, to see if they are there, and reward or discourage them accordingly," added Mrs. Jones. "The most zealous teachers will flag in their exertions, if they are not animated and supported by the wealthy; and your poor youths will soon despise religious instruction as a thing forced upon them, as a hardship added to their other hardships, if it be not made pleasant by the encouraging presence, kind words, and little gratuities from their betters."
Here Mrs. Jones took her leave; the farmer insisted on waiting on her to the door. When they got into the yard, they spied Mr. Simpson, who was standing near a little group of females, consisting of the farmer's two young daughters, and a couple of rosy dairy-maids, an old blind fiddler, and a woman who led him. The woman had laid a basket on the ground, out of which she was dealing some songs to the girls, who were kneeling round it, and eagerly picking out such whose titles suited their tastes. On seeing the clergyman come up, the fiddler's companion (for I am sorry to say she was not his wife) pushed some of the songs to the bottom of the basket, turned round to the company, and, in a whining tone, asked if they would please to buy a godly book. Mr. Simpson saw through the hypocrisy at once, and, instead of making any answer, took out of one of the girls' hands a song, which the woman had not been able to snatch away. He was shocked and grieved to see that these young girls were about to read, to sing, and to learn by heart, such ribaldry as he was ashamed even to cast his eyes on. He turned about to the girl, and gravely, but mildly, said, “Young woman, what do you think should be done to a person who should be found carrying a box of poison round the country, and leaving a little at every house !” The girls all agreed that such a person ought to be hanged. “That he should,” said the farmer, “if I was upon the jury, and quartered too.” The fiddler and his woman were of the same opinion; declaring, they would not do such a wicked thing for the world, for if they were poor they were honest. Mr. Simpson, turning to the other girl, said, “Which is of
most value, the soul or the body ?” “The soul, sir,” said the girl. “Why so "" said he. “Because, sir, I have heard you say, in the pulpit, the soul is to last forever.” “Then,”
cried Mr. Simpson, in a stern voice, turning to the fiddler's woman, “Are you not ashamed to sell poison for that part which is to last forever ? poison for the soul?” “Poison l’” said the terrified girl, throwing down the book, and shuddering as people do who are afraid they have touched something infectious. “Poison!” echoed the farmer's daughter, recollecting with horror the ratsbane which Lion, the old house-dog, had got at the day before, and after eating which, she had seen him drop down dead in convulsions. “Yes,” said Mr. Simpson to the woman, “I do again repeat, the souls of these innocent girls will be poisoned, and may be eternally ruined, by this vile trash which you carry about.”
“I now see,” said Mrs. Jones to the farmer, “the reason why you think learning to read does more harm than good. It is indeed far better that they should never know how to tell a letter, unless you keep such trash as this out of the way, and provide them with what is good, or at least what is harmless. Still this is not the fault of reading, but the abuse of it. Wine is still a good cordial, though it is too often abused to the purpose of drunkenness.”
The farmer said that neither of his maids could read their horn-book, though he owned he often heard them singing that song which the parson thought so bad, but for his part it made him as merry as a nightingale.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Jones, “as a proof that it is not merely being able to read which does the mischief, I have often heard, as I have been crossing a hay-field, young girls singing such indecent ribaldry as has driven me out of the field, though I well knew they could not read a line of what they were singing, but had caught it from others. So, you see, you may as well say the memory is a wicked talent because some people misapply it, as to say that reading is dangerous because some folks abuse it.”
While they were talking, the fiddler and his woman were trying to steal away unobserved, but Mr. Simpson stopped them, and sternly said, "Woman, I shall have some further talk with you. I am a magistrate, as well as a minister; and, if I know it, I will no more allow a wicked book to be sold in my parish than a dose of poison." The girls threw away all their songs, thanked Mr. Simpson, begged Mrs. Jones would take them into her school after they had done milking in the evenings, that they might learn to read only what was proper. They promised they would never more deal with any but sober, honest hawkers, such as sell good little books, Christmas carols, and harmless songs, and desired the fiddler's woman never to call there again.
This little incident afterwards confirmed Mrs. Jones in a plan she had before some thoughts of putting in practice. This was, after her school had been established a few months, to invite all the well-disposed grown-up youth of the parish to meet her at the school an hour or two on a Sunday evening, after the necessary business of the dairy, and of serving the cattle, was over. Both Mrs. Jones and her agent had the talent of making this time pass so agreeably, by their manner of explaining Scripture, and of impressing the heart by serious and affectionate discourse, that in a short time the eveningschool was nearly filled with a second company, after the younger ones were dismissed. In time, not only the servants, but the sons and daughters of the most substantial people in the parish, attended. At length, many of the parents, pleased with the improvement so visible in the young people, got a habit of dropping in, that they might learn how to instruct their own families. And it was observed, that as the school filled, not only the five's-court and public-house were thinned, but even Sunday gossiping and tea-visiting declined. Even farmer Hoskins, who was at first angry with his maids for leaving off those merry songs (as he called them), was so pleased by the manner in which the psalms were sung at the school, that he promised Mrs. Jones to make her a present of half a sheep towards her first Mayday feast. Of this feast, and some further account of the Sunday school, see the history of Hester Wilmot, in a future Part.
Methought I was once upon a time travelling through a certain land which was very full of people ; but, what was rather odd, not one of all this multitude was at home; they were all bound to a far distant country. Though it was permitted by the Lord of the land that these pilgrims might associate together for their present mutual comfort and convenience, and each was not only allowed, but commanded, to do the others all the services he could upon their journey, yet it was decreed, that every individual traveller must enter the far country singly. There was a great gulf at the end of the journey, which every one must pass alone, and at his own risk; and the friendship of the whole united world could be of no use in shooting that gulf. The exact time when each was to pass was not known to any; this the Lord always kept a close secret, out of kindness; yet still they were as sure that the time must come, and that at no very great distance, as if they had been informed of the very moment. Now, as they knew they were always liable to be called away at an hour's notice, one would have thought they would have been chiefly employed in packing up, and preparing, and getting every thing in order. But this was so far from being the case, that it was almost the only thing which they did not think about.
Now, I only appeal to you, my readers, if any of you are setting out upon a little common journey, if it is only to London or York, is not all your leisure time employed in settling your business at home, and packing up every little necessary for your expedition? And does not the fear of neglecting any thing you ought to remember, or may have occasion for,
* Though this and the following allegories will bring to the reader's mind the two books of Bunyan, his "Pilgrim's Progress" and "Holy War," here is no direct imitation ; the objects of instruction are the same, but the manner is different. Dr. Johnson's tale of " Obidah," in the Rambler, was evidently written after reading the first part of Bunyan's Pilgrim.—Ed.