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and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. (Phil. ii. 6, 7.) But we will speak further on this subject in its place, and proceed here to the business for which the party were assembled.
As soon as the tea-things were removed, and the doors shut, the lady of the manor thus addressed the young people: "My dear young friends, the subject which now calls us together is of such importance, that in comparison thereof nothing merely temporal can bear the smallest proportion. You are not now called to observe a certain form, which may be omitted without peril to your souls; but you are required, by a solemn voice from the holy Church of Christ, to declare whether you will, in the presence of God and of the Church, renew the awful promise and vow that was made for you by your sponsors in your baptism, and whether you will ratify and confirm the same in your own persons, acknowledging yourselves bound to believe and to do all those things which your godfathers and godmothers then undertook for you."
The lady of the manor then stated to the young people a certain fact; which was, that they had all, as members of the Established Church of this kingdom, been devoted to Christ in their infancy, in baptism, and that intercessions had been made and vows undertaken on their behalf; the Established Church agreeing to accept the suretyship of elder persons on behalf of its infant members. "But," added she; "inasmuch as the Church considers the responsibility of the sponsor to cease when the person answered for arrives at a competent age, which is generally understood to be about the fifteenth year, it then, in the rite of confirmation, solemnly calls upon the individual to confirm the vow made for him in his baptism. It is impossible," continued the lady of the manor, "to say at what period a child becomes capable of wilful sin, or at what time of life a young person first becomes accountable; but all denominations of Christians, I doubt not, would agree, that this takes place at a much earlier age than that in which the Church of England calls upon its members to confirm the vow made at their baptism. And though individuals under the age of ten or twelve may plead the heedlessness of childhood as some excuse for the VOL. I.
neglect of their spiritual concerns, yet after that time it is very certain that young people are capable of attending to the affairs of their souls, inasmuch as at that period they often become exceedingly eager to procure for themselves the good things of this world, and are fully alive to what they conceive to be their present interests. We cannot therefore attribute the too frequent neglect of religion which is so observable at this time of life, to any other cause than the natural depravity of the human heart, and to that enmity against God which exists in every unconverted character.
"This being the case," continued the lady, "it can hardly be doubted but that every young person who continues after a competent time, to shut his ears to instruction, is in danger of eternal condemnation; so that if such young person should die in this state, there would be great cause of apprehension on his account.
"It is commonly said, by the profane and thoughtless, that youth is the time for pleasure, and for the enjoyment of life. We will not now stay to decide whether what the world calls pleasure is the same thing with the true enjoyment of life, but we will ask these questions: If young persons at your age despise the voice of the Church, which at this time calls upon them to repent and turn unto the Lord, are they assured that they will ever again hear the like gracious calls? and are they quite certain that, having neglected this opportunity of coming to their God, another may be allowed them? Repentance is the gift of God; and those only run after the Lord who are first drawn by him. If we say to those who address us in the name of Christ, Depart, and come at a more convenient time,' they may perhaps depart, but the time of their return may never arrive. Life is uncertain; opportunity may never again be offered; and though, under the terrors of approaching death, we may seek repentance, even with tears, as Esau did, it may never be granted unto us."
The lady of the manor then proceeded to say, that as she hoped to spend many evenings with these young people, and intended (the Lord permitting) to enter with them into an explanation of each of the important doctrines of Christianity, she should content herself on this, the first evening of their meeting, by endeavouring merely
to impress them with the wisdom of seizing the present moment for religious improvement, and not putting off repentance to a future time. She then added, that she would, if agreeable, repeat a short story which she thought much to the purpose of their present conversation. The young ladies expressed their satisfaction at this proposal, and the lady of the manor accordingly proceeded to relate
The History of the Lady Caroline
"My father," said the lady of the manor, "inherited a small estate in the immediate neighbourhood of the superb mansion of the Earl of S- My father's property, indeed, was so intermingled with the domains of this nobleman, that it became, like the vineyard of Naboth to the King of Samaria, a matter of great uneasiness to the earl. But, as the house and grounds had been long in our family, my father could not bring his mind to part with them, although he indulged the taste of the earl in the decorations of his house, and the arrangement of his grounds, in order to render his small dwelling as little of an eye-sore as possible to the nobleman and his visiters.
"Our house was very old; and having formed part of an ancient monastery, it was allowed, when repaired by my father, to retain as much of its former character as possible. Many of the gothic windows were filled with stained glass; the grotesque figures of carved wood were still left in their ancient situations over the doors and windows; and the rude crosses were permitted to retain their places on those parts of the roof, on which they had been originally fixed. The gardens also were laid out in a style corresponding with the house; and the same taste was consulted in the arrangement of the interior of the dwelling, at least as far as did not interfere with the comfort of its inhabitants.
"There was a room at the very top of the house, which extended the whole length of the building. This room was in fact only a garret, having a sloping roof, with such windows jutting out from the roof as are frequently seen in old buildings: these, however, were embellished with much grotesque carving, while the higher parts of them were decorated with panes of old painted glass. My father made this room his study, furnishing it with book
shelves and suitable desks, enriching the wall between the book-cases with certain old prints, bronze busts, and figures on pedestals; which, together with such samples of old chairs and tables as he was able to collect, formed an assortment of furniture which might well have suited the abbots and monks who formerly occupied the house.
My father was as singularly attached to old books as to old furniture; in consequence of which his venerable book-cases were seldom disgraced by modern works in handsome bindings: and, as he undertook the literary part of my education, he failed not to endeavour to inspire me with the same taste.
"In this apartment, which I have thus minutely described, I always spent several hours of every day. It was in one of the above-mentioned windows, which projected from the roof, that my chair and desk were placed, and near to it my little shelf of books and work-basket.
"I had no sister; and my brothers being much older than myself, and for the most part absent from home, either at school or at college, I was from early childhood much used to be alone, and, in consequence, became extremely fond of solitude; although, I am sorry to say, that I did not often employ the opportunities afforded by this solitude to the best purposes. Thus I spent many hours in my little cell, as my father used to call it, sometimes enjoying great happiness there, and at other times enduring as much misery, in proportion as my mind was directed to proper subjects or otherwise. But I have reason to think, that my indulgent parents never suspected the cause of a certain oppression of spirits, which, nevertheless, they must have occasionally observed in me.
There are some persons, who can specify the day, and even the hour, in which they first received religious impressions: this however is not my case; since I am unable to remember the time when I had not some sense of the importance of religion, and when my conduct and feelings were not in some degree influenced by it. But these impressions were extremely different at different times; so that while I recollect certain periods in my youth in which I felt my heart considerably drawn towards heavenly things, I remember also many other seasons in which I was ready to sacrifice all things to the world.
My parents seized the earliest opportunities of giving me Christian instruction; nor did they relax their efforts of this kind, until they were separated from me by death. They also took infinite pains to give me simple Christian habits; at the same time very anxiously setting me the example of all that they wished me to be. My father was a truly pious man, and a laborious parish-priest; while my mother was self-denying, humble, and active in the performance of every Christian duty. Under such parents, it would have been strange, if I had not at least become acquainted with the leading doctrines of Christianity, and acquired some religious habits. But a real change of heart is a divine work, and can not be effected by the most careful or laborious course of instruction. It is sometimes however very difficult to distinguish in young persons the effect of godly examples and a pious education from those effectual workings of the Holy Spirit, by which a vital change is wrought in the heart; more especially as, after this change, the natural corruptions still continue to work within, and sometimes with seemingly greater violence than before, inasmuch as they are put in motion by the power which is acting for their destruction. On these accounts I can not undertake to say at what period of my life I was first made really sensible of divine impressions; though as I before said, I can remember deriving some pleasure from religious pursuits in my early youth.
"I was very early taught to find satisfaction in visiting the poor, in working for them, and reading to them. My Bible was represented to me as an inexhaustible source of sweet meditation, affording endless prospects of peace and glory. My father also took great pains in leading me to admire the beautiful works of creation, and to consider them as so many earnests of what the Father of all good has promised to provide for those who love him in the world to come so that every tree and every flower, the murmuring brooks and shady woods, the star-light nights and sunny days, in my young imagination, were made to abound with sweet promises and pleasant prospects of everlasting bliss; the door to which was already opened by a dear and suffering Saviour. The effect of these cheering and holy instructions, particularly during the first ten or eleven years of my life, were at times so powerful as to