Page images
PDF
EPUB

not sit down to supper with such a brute, and set off to a neighbor's house, that she might have the pleasure of abusing him the longer. John, whose mind was much disturbed, went up stairs without his supper. As he was passing by Hester's little room, he heard her voice, and as he concluded she was venting bitter complaints against her unnatural parents, he stopped to listen, resolving to go in and comfort her. He stopped at the door, for, by the light of the moon, he saw her kneeling by her bedside, and praying so earnestly that she did not hear him. As he made sure she could be praying for nothing but his death, what was his surprise to hear these words, “O Lord, have mercy upon my dear father and mother: teach me to love them, to pray for them, and do them good : make me more dutiful, and more patient, that, adorning the doctrine of God my Savior, I may recommend his holy religion, and my dear parents may be brought to love and fear thee, through Jesus Christ.”

Poor John, who would never have been hard-hearted if he had not been a drunkard, could not stand this; he fell down on his knees, embraced his child, and begged her to teach him how to pray. He prayed himself as well as he could ; and, though he did not know what words to use, yet his heart was melted; he owned he was a sinner, and begged Hester to fetch the prayer-book, and read over the confession with which he had been so struck at church. This was the pleasantest order she had ever obeyed. Seeing him deeply affected with a sense of sin, she pointed out to him the Savior of sinners; and in this manner she passed some hours with her father, which were the happiest of her life : such a night was worth a hundred cotton, or even silk gowns. In the course of the week, Hester read over the confession, and some other prayers, to her father so often, that he got them by heart, and repeated them while he was at work. She next taught him the fifty-first psalm. At length he took courage to kneel down and pray before he went to bed. From that time he bore his wife's ill-humor much better than he had ever done ; and, as he knew her to be neat, and notable, and saving, he began to think, that if her temper was not quite so bad, his home might still become as pleasant a place to him as ever the Bell had been ; but, unless she became more tractable, he did not know what to do with his long evenings after the little ones were in bed, for he began, once more, to delight in playing with them. Hester proposed that she herself should teach him to read an hour every night; and he consented. Rebecca began to storm, from the mere trick

VOL, I

she had got of storming ; but finding that he now brought home all his earnings, and that she got both his money and his company (for she had once loved him), she began to reconcile herself to this new way of life. In a few months, John could read a psalm. In learning to read it, he also got it by heart, and this proved a little store for private devotion; and while he was mowing or reaping, he could call to mind a text to cheer his labor. He now went constantly to church, and often dropped in at the school on a Sunday evening to hear their prayers. He expressed so much pleasure at this, that one day Hester ventured to ask him if they should set up family prayer at home. John said he should like it mightily ; but, as he could not yet read quite well enough, he desired Hester to try to get a proper book, and begin next Sunday night. Hester had bought, of a pious hawker, for three halfpence, the Book of Prayers, printed for the Cheap Repository, and knew she should there find something suitable.

When Hester read the exhortation at the beginning of this little book, her mother, who sat in the corner, and pretended to be asleep, was so much struck, that she could not find a word to say against it. For a few nights, indeed, she continued to sit still, or pretended to rock the young child, while her husband and daughter were kneeling at their prayers. She expected John would have scolded her for this; and so perverse was her temper, that she was disappointed at his finding no fault with her. Seeing at last that he was very patient, and that, though he prayed fervently himself, he suffered her to do as she liked, she lost the spirit of opposition, for want of something to provoke it. As her pride began to be subdued, some little disposition to piety was awakened in her heart. By degrees she slid down on her knees, though at first it was behind the cradle, or the clock, or in some corner, where she thought they would not see her. Hester rejoiced, even in this outward change in her mother, and prayed that God would at last be pleased to touch her heart, as he had done that of her father.

As John now spent no idle money, he had saved up a trifle by working over-hours ; this he kindly offered to Hester, to make up for the loss of her gown. Instead of accepting it, Hester told him, that as she herself was young and healthy, she should soon be able to clothe herself out of her own savings, and begged him to make her mother a present of this gown, which he did. It had been a maxim of Rebecca, that it was better not to go to church at all, than go in an old gown. She had, however, so far conquered this evil notion, that she had lately gone pretty often. This kindness of the gown touched her not a little; and the first Sunday she put it on, Mr. Simpson happened to preach from this text, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” This sermon so affected Rebecca, that she never once thought she had her new gown on, till she came to take it off when she went to bed; and that very night, instead of skulking behind, she knelt down by her husband, and joined in prayer with much fervor.

There was one thing sunk deep in Rebecca's mind : she had observed, that since her husband had grown religious, he had been so careful not to give her any offence, that he was become scrupulously clean; took off his dirty shoes before he sat down, and was very cautious not to spill a drop of beer on her shining table. Now, it was rather remarkable, that as John grew more neat, Rebecca grew more indifferent to neatness. But both these changes arose from the same cause, the growth of religion in their hearts. John grew cleanly, from the fear of giving pain to his wife; while Rebecca grew indifferent, from having discovered the sin and folly of an over-anxious care about trifles. When the heart is once given up to God, such vanities in a good degree die of themselves.

Hester continues to grow in grace, and in knowledge. Last Christmas-day she was appointed an under teacher in the school; and many people think, that, some years hence, if any thing should happen to Mrs. Crew, Hester may be promoted to be head-mistress.

THE GRAND ASSIZES;

OR,

GENERAL JAIL DELIVERY.

AN ALLEGORY.

THERE was in a certain country a great king, who was also a judge. He was very merciful, but he was also very just; for he used to say, that justice was the foundation of all goodness, and that indiscriminate and misapplied mercy was, in fact, injustice. His subjects were apt enough, in a general way, to extol his merciful temper; and especially those subjects who were always committing crimes which made them particularly liable to be punished by his justice. This last quality they constantly kept out of sight, till they had cheated themselves into a notion that he was too good to punish at all.

Now, it had happened a long time before, that this whole people had broken their allegiance, and had forfeited the king's favor, and had also fallen from a very prosperous state, in which he had originally placed them, having one and all become bankrupts. But when they were over head and ears in debt, and had nothing to pay, the king's son most generously took the whole burden of their debts on himself; and, in short, it was proposed that all their affairs should be settled, and their very crimes forgiven (for they were criminals as well as debtors), provided only they would show themselves sincerely sorry for what they had done themselves, and be thankful for what had been done for them. I should however remark, that a book was also given them, in which a true and faithful account of their own rebellion was written, and of the manner of obtaining the king's pardon, together with a variety of directions for their conduct in the time to come; and in this book it was particularly mentioned, that after having lived a certain number of years in a remote part of the same king's country, yet still under his eye and juris

diction, there should be a Grand Assize, when every one was to be publicly tried for his past behavior; and after this trial was over, certain heavy punishments were to be inflicted on those who should have still persisted in their rebellion ; and certain high premiums were to be bestowed, as a gracious reward, upon the penitent and obedient.

It may be proper here to notice, that this king's court differed in some respects from our courts of justice, being indeed a sort of court of appeal, to which questions were carried, after they had been imperfectly decided in the common courts. And although with us all criminals are tried (and a most excellent mode of trial it is) by a jury of their peers, yet in this king's country, the mode was very different; for since every one of the people had been in a certain sense criminals, the king did not think it fair to make them judges also. It would, indeed, have been impossible to follow in all respects the customs which prevail with us, for the crimes with which men are charged in our courts are mere overt acts, as the lawyers call them; that is, acts which regard the outward behavior; such as the acts of striking, maiming, stealing, and so forth. But in this king's court it was not merely outward sins, but sins of the heart also, which were to be punished. Many a crime, therefore, which was never heard of in the court of King's Bench, or at the Old Bailey, and which, indeed, could not be cognizable by these courts, was here to be brought to light, and was reserved for this great day. Among these were pride, and oppression, and envy, and malice, and revenge, and covetousness, and secret vanity of mind, and evil thoughts of all sorts, and all sinful wishes and desires. When covetousness, indeed, put men on committing robbery, or when malice drove them to an act of murder, then the common courts immediately judged the criminal, without waiting for these Great Assizes ; nevertheless, since even a thief and murderer would now and then escape in the common courts, for want of evidence, or through some fault or other of the judge or jury, the escape was of little moment to the poor criminal, for he was sure to be tried again by this great king; and even though the man should have been punished in some sense before, yet he had now a further and more lasting punishment to fear, unless, indeed, he was one of those who had obtained (by the means I before spoke of) this great king's pardon. The sins of the heart, however, were, by far, the most numerous sort of sins, which were to come before this great tribunal; and these were to be judged by this great king in

« PreviousContinue »