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THE LOVELYS, AND THE FAMILY OF BROOKFIELD-HALI.
TUE CLAIMS OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS EXAMINED.
THE following day being Sunday, Mr. and Mrs.
Lovely attended the family' to Brookfield Church. The pleasing sight of so large and devout a congregation, collected from every quarter, and the holy reverence with which the service was conducted, surprised them not a little. Mr. Lovegood took his text from 2 Cor. iv. 17; “Our light aftliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" and though they both felt the text suitable and desirable, as it related to their own situation ; yet the application, at first, rather surprised them, that we were all sinners before God; and that chastisement was needed to detect the latent venom of corrupted nature, however it might be cloaked from our view, by the favorable circumstance of a good disposition, and a life of strict morality ; that though we should esteem every good we enjoy, as“ the gift of God," and hold such gifts in due estimation, as they, at least prevent an abundance of evil ; yet the real good which makes us meet for heaven arises, from another source: and though he believed that where there is a high degree of morality or uprightness before man, (as even so much as this is of uncommon growth, he humbly trusted, that there may be the seeds of the divine principle secretly implanted ; yet after all, it is “ the grace of God that bringeth salvation, and which
teacheth us, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts ; and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.”. And in Mr. Lovegood's application of his sermon, though he cautiously avoided an indiscriminate charge against all good, as though it were evil, because we ourselves are so ; yet he still urged that there is nothing good in us, but what is blended with evil. He appealed to the consciences of his hearers, if all of them had not found, more or less, some unwarrantable murmurings and repinings against God, during sharp and heavy afflictions, until their hearts, under the influence of divine grace, were duly humbled to acknowledge their own sinfulness in his sight. He then brought the instance of holy Job, how he for a time, was found in rebellion against the correcting hand of God, till he was better instructed, by a deeper knowledge of his holiness, to cry in humble submission, “ Behold, I am vile !"
These considerations brought to Mrs. Lovely's recollection, the many unwarrantable reflections, which had passed her own mind during her afflictions, though she thought little of them for the moment ; yet now, for the first time, her conscience began to recoil at them, as being a proof of the inbred corruption of her nature ; of which before she had scarcely the most distant conception. She had frequently been reflecting upon the native goodness of her heart, praising herself rather than God, that she was naturally
much better than the rest of mankind ; and wondered how a merciful God, should permit her to be so afflicted, while many, so far her inferiors in all the principles of virtue and morality, were prosperous.
Under these dark conceptions of her own heart, she would be arguing with Job in his unhumbled days," that sbe was clean and without transgression; that she was innocent, and that there was no iniquity in her ; but that God yet found occasion against her, and counted her for his enemy." However a very few reflections of this sort, forced the penitential tear
froin her eye, and laid her humbled heart in the dust before God. Instead of “entering into judgment with God," she could now cry, “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no flesh living be justified.”
At the sight of this, Mr. Lovely was not a little affected, as he greatly feared that these strong impressions, might be attended with such consequences, that her delicate frame, might thereby sustain fresh injury. After their return from Church, they retired for a short time before the dinner was placed on the table, to a private seat in the pleasure ground, and the following conversation took place.
Mrs. Lov. My dear, what a wonderful sermon we have been hearing this day! If these things be true, 1 fear we are both wrong.
Lov. Wrong my dear-How can we be wrong ? What harm have we done ? If we are not right, the Lord have mercy upon thousands !
Mrs. Lov. Though I dare not say that I can accuse myself of any gross immoralities, yet you cannot conceive what proud, angry, and rebellious thoughts I have secretly had against God, during our affliction. I never had the most distant idea, till this day, what an evil state we must be in, when such a tribe of evil thoughts are to be found in our hearts. But I hope, and I believe your heart is not so bad as mine. Lov. O
dear love! we must not suppose that the Almighty will eternally condemn us, for a few bad thoughts ; you know that “ his mercies are over all his works,” and that "he will not be extreme to mark niquity.”
Mrs. Lo". O no! it is not, that I fear I shall be eternally condemned for my bad thoughts ; but I find and feel myself such a sinner, because I have them. Why should I for a moment have barboured such erit conceptions against. God, when he so justly punishes me as a sinner, and still so merciful punishes me for my good ? In what a fine manner_Mr. Lovegood explained that text, “Whom the Lord loveth he chastenéth, and scourgeth every one whom he receiveth.”—But did you ever see such a serious and devont congregation before? No wonder that even the public house should have been so reformed, under such an excellent Minister. And what a charming family the Worthys are, how cheerful, yet how truly pious! I am afraid we cannot say we are like them.I am sure, I am not.
Lov. O my dearest Ann! I am much afraid lest your unjust notions against the native purity and goodness of your heart, should so perplex you, as to de prive you of all the consolation yon have a right to daim to yourself. But whatever you may think of Mr. Lovegood's sermon, it by no means struck me as being so super-excellent. First, I have no great opinion of your extemporaneous preachers. I can very readily give up all these, for the sake of hearing a minister upon some good grave moral subject, who has properly and carefully corrected his sermon before he preaches it. And then, I think what he said had rather a tendency to make the Almighty a hard task-master. He certainly is a man of ability, and I do not doubt but that he has a very good heart, and I dare say his stern way of preaching, has done a great deal of good among the common people ; but in one part of his sermon, he seemed to preach to us, as if we were all a pack of heathens.
Mrs. Lov. To be sure, he made some very strong remarks, in shewing what a great difference there is between Christianity as it is revealed in the Bible, and as it is practised by the people of the world ; but I cannot help thinking there was a deal of truth in what he said. I fear lest I should be found, after all, nothing better than a mere " whited sepulchre,” in the sight of God.
Lov. My dear creature ! how can you for a moment admit such a preposterous thought? I wonder yon
can so overlook your own goodness : though I am quite delighted with Mr. Worthy's hospitality, yet I am very sorry that Mr. Lovegood's sermon should have left such a strange impression on your mind; and I am sure such dreary notions against yourself, are not only the most inconsistent and unjust; but I fear also, lest they should so prey upon your thoughts, as to be injurious to your constitution, unless you can muster up proper resolution to resist them.
Will you allow me, my dearest life, to request you not to think of going to Church again this afternoon? You could scarcely bear the crowd which was there this morning : you were almost ready to faint half the time, and I am sure his notions in religion will never do for you: at least, in my opinion, you have unhappily misapplied them.
Mrs. Lov. I thank you very kindly for your advice: but what shall I do? If I grieve you by again going to Church, I fear I shall as much grieve and perplex my own mind, in staying at home.
Lov. O my dear! I'll stay at home with you, and read some of the Saturday's papers of the Spectator, you know they are all upon moral subjects ? or one of Dr. Blair's sermons, if Mr. Worthy has got them.
Mrs. Lov. Indeed my dear, I never could read either in those papers, or in Blair's sermons, any thing like so interesting as what I have heard this day from Mr. Lovegood. I think you a little misunderstand him : perhaps when you have heard him again, you may be better pleased with him. With your leave, I am exceedingly desirous to hear him a second time ; but if I should grieve you by acting against your kind advice, it will equally be the canse of grief to me.
During this short conversation, the dinner-bell summoned them to the family meal, which on a Sunday, at Brookfield Hall, is verv plain, but plentiful: an