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that I should feel a particular awkwardness in conversing with them in short," continued he, "the thing would be impracticable to me.'
"You mean," said the lady of the manor, "I presume, the young females of higher rank in your parish."
"I do," said Mr. Vernon, " and I feel that, if it were even possible for me to overcome my reluctance to such an undertaking, yet that, perhaps, it would be more prudent to decline it; especially," continued he, "if I could procure such a substitute as I desire." Here he paused, and looked at the lady of the manor, who remained silently expecting what he had further to propose.
Mr. Vernon then proceeded to declare his wishes; which were, if possible, to engage the lady of the manor to undertake this part of his duty for him, and to employ some of her leisure hours, until the period of the confirmation' should arrive, in giving religious instruction to the young ladies of the parish.
The lady of the manor was somewhat perplexed by this request. She perceived however at once the propriety of it. She foresaw also, that great good might be thus accomplished, if God should bless the work. But while she was disposed to consider the proposal as a plain call of duty, her unaffected humility inclined her at the same time to hesitate on the ground of her unfitness for such an undertaking-and in this state of indecision she remained a moment silent.
This interval Mr. Vernon employed in urging his request, and using such arguments, as he thought most calculated to influence a mind under the regulation of Christian principles. At length, the lady replied, “I ask only a short time for serious consideration, as well as for seeking superior direction, and I will give you my answer this evening."
The remainder of the time which Mr. Vernon spent with the lady of the manor, and which was till the evening service required his attendance, was for the most part employed in conversing upon the nature of confirmation, and inquiring into its origin; for the purpose of ascertaining whether it ought to be considered as an ordinance of Scripture, or merely as a ceremony of man's appointment. Mr. Vernon said, that he had always been led to suppose that
the rite was derived from a certain passage in the Acts of the Apostles, informing us, that after the inhabitants of Samaria had been baptized and had received the word of God, the apostles St. Peter and St. John were sent to lay their hands on these new converts, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.-Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts viii. 14, 15, 17.)
The lady of the manor remarked, that she could not collect from this text any thing relative to confirmation of a nature so decisive as to enable her to say she considered the ordinance of divine appointment, or a duty indispensable to Christians. "We can not, in short," said she, "put this ordinance on an equality with baptism or the Lord's Supper, neither ought we to condemn those who reject it entirely."
"I believe," said Mr. Vernon, "that we may plead the authority of the primitive church in its favour."
"I require nothing to be said in its favour," replied the lady of the manor: "I myself approve the custom, and am convinced that it affords a precious opportunity of drawing the attention of the youthful mind to serious subjects at that period of life, when the world from without pours in all its temptations, and finds too many advocates in the evil tendencies of the heart. And I am persuaded that under these views the rulers of the church, in almost every period of its existence, have either adopted this very ceremony of confirmation, or appointed some other observance calculated to answer the same purpose."
As soon as the lady of the manor had opportunity of being alone after this conversation, she prayed earnestly for the divine direction and assistance in an affair of such importance-and shortly after Mr. Vernon had retired from the sacred services of the day, he was gratified with the following note from her hand.
"MY DEAR SIR, "I feel myself entirely unequal to the work which you have appointed me; yet if it is the plea
sure of the Almighty to employ me on this occasion, I feel so entirely assured of his readiness to fit me for it, that I will not hesitate to cast all my care upon him respecting this matter. If therefore you still continue desirous of my services, I promise you to use my utmost endeavours to promote your wishes."
The note concluded by appointing the place and hour when and where the lady wished to receive the young people; to which she added a request that Mr. Vernon would open the matter to the parents.
Mr. Vernon having carried this special point with the lady of the manor, had no difficulty, either with the young ladies his parishioners, or with their parents, since the lady of the manor was sincerely honoured and beloved by every family in the parish; and the young ladies were quite impatient for the arrival of the appointed day, that should introduce them to the manor-house.
Containing a general Address to Young Persons on the Importance of Confirmation.
ON the appointed evening, between twelve and twenty young ladies, all of whom had given in their names as candidates for confirmation, assembled at the manor-house. They were affectionately received by the lady of the manor, and led by her into her favourite room, where a large table was set out, with preparations for tea; after which refreshment, she had resolved to enter upon the business which had called them together.
The apartment in which this party were assembled was a library, fitted up with book-cases containing most of the favourite authors of the lady of the manor: it was also her work-room, in which she had neat cabinets, containing materials for work, with stores of ready-made garments for the poor. The walls, instead of being hung with looking-glasses and gilt ornaments, were decorated with a few fine old prints, the designs of which were taken from sacred subjects. At one end of this room were five windows, three of which were in front, and one on each side, descending to the floor, and presenting, from their several aspects, three distinct and very beautiful prospects.
From the front windows was seen a dingle of the park, formed by two considerable eminences, on whose sloping sides were lofty trees combined in picturesque groups. In the depth of this dingle a small stream, that came murmuring from the heights, had collected itself into a clear lake, which added not a little to the beauty of the scenery; the prospect terminating with a remote view of the ocean. From the window on the right hand was seen the
ornamented part of the garden and shrubbery; and on the left, a kind of wilderness of flowering shrubs and aromatic herbs, enclosed with a slight iron railing, in which were many winding walks and garden-seats, inviting to study and contemplation: each, though somewhat formal and artificial, yet not without its charms.
The young ladies, while tea was preparing, had leisure to admire this varied scenery, and to observe the last rays of the departing sun, as it disappeared behind the trees. Before the evening closed in, the candles being lighted, and the hissing urns placed upon the table, the lady of the manor then summoned her young visiters to tea, and requesting some of the older ones to relieve her from the charge of preparing it, she exerted herself to remove that embarrassment which young persons are too apt to exhibit on occasions when they should exert themselves to become agreeable. She asked several questions, and made many remarks, with little success: a simple negative or affirmative, with a corresponding grave and formal deportment, was all, for some time, she could obtain from them. Not, however, quite disheartened by these difficulties, she at length observed something in the countenance of one of the younger ladies, whom we shall call Sophia, of a nature particularly prepossessing. To this young person she then addressed her discourse, and receiving from her a calm and unembarrassed answer, was enabled to support a conversation with her till the ceremony of tea-drinking was over.
During this conversation the young Sophia (for she was one of the youngest of the party) said nothing very brilliant or remarkable. But she spoke with good sense, and without any awkward or affected airs; being guided by the simple desire of doing or saying what was proper, neither discovering any forwardness, nor seeking to show herself off at advantage; by which means she succeeded in rendering herself far more agreeable than any of her elders then present. And here, as in many other instances, we see the lovely effects of humility. Humility becomes our fallen nature, and our blessed Saviour himself assumed this garb when he put on the nature of man. For this blessed and holy One, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation,