Page images





“ Behold, now is the accepted time ; behold, now is the day of

salvation.”--2 Cor. vi. 2.

When I was at college, I formed an acquaintance with a young man of elevated rank and great expectations. Our rooms were upon the same staircase, and we were almost inseparable companions. But on quitting the university, I lost sight of my friend. I heard, however, at some distance of time, that, having succeeded to the family title and estate, he had gone abroad for a period of three years. In about eighteen months after this, circumstances carried me to the continent; and one day, as I was at a public place in Florence, I saw a young Englishman whose features, though bronzed and matured, I speedily recognised as those of Sir William F.

It was a mutual pleasure to meet. · We talked over past days, and future prospects; and, in short, agreed, as long as it was possible, to travel together. We visited Rome and Naples; fearless of the banditti which then infested Calabria, we traversed that province; we explored the island of Sicily; and then prepared, by leisurely journeys, to return through France into England.

Sir William was a delightful companion. He had taste and information; he was fond of antiquarian research, and well acquainted with the modern literature of the countries through which we were travelling; his amusements were rational, and his moral conduct irreproachable; his disposition was kind and generous, and he possessed an inexhaustible flow of spirits. On one point alone we differed. you not,” said he to me, one day, as we had watched from a balcony a gorgeous religious procession,—“ See you not, Emerson, how much influence climate has upon men's modes of worship? In our sterner England such a show would be ridiculed as mere mummery; but here, beneath this glorious

" See

sky and brilliant sun, the blood boils into quicker circulation, and something more gay and stirring, more in keeping with all around, is absolutely necessary for Italian feelings. I confess,” proceeded he, “it is a pleasure to me to contemplate the varieties of religion; and to see how, as the earth yields in different lands different flowers and fruits, so the human mind, acted on by similar causes, assumes according to its location a different hue. The soberness of protestantism, the splendour of Roman catholic devotion, the haughtiness of Mohammedism, the effeminacy of Hindoo worship, assort remarkably with the climates in which they respectively prevail.”

“But yet,” said I," what is truth in one country cannot be error in another.”

“My good friend,” replied Sir William, “would you wish to see all nature clothed in one monotonous livery? The devotion may be the same; but let us have the expression of it a little varied. The heart, you know, is what the Deity must chiefly look at; and its feelings, I doubt not, may be expressed with equal sincerity and acceptance in different ways.”

Our conversation was interrupted, but we frequently renewed the subject, and I found with regret that my friend had adopted the notion, that if a man was but sincere in the religion he professed, it mattered not, provided his conduct was decent, what faith he had embraced. He defended his opinions with much zeal, but always with perfect good humour; and, though certainly I combated his arguments, yet I have often since regretted that I did not use all the opportunities I had for convincing him of the truth. Alas ! had I been more faithful, perhaps, by God's blessing, the deep misery of after days might have been averted. But I was scarcely myself at that time thoroughly alive to the importance of vital godliness.

After some months' companionship, we parted. Circumstances had occurred to prevent my returning to England with Sir William, and I took up my residence as British chaplain in a sea-port town, giving him a promise that my first visit, when I did again see my native country, should be to him. Some years, however, elapsed before I was able to redeem my pledge.

At length, one fine autumn, I repaired to Park. I found the baronet the same kind friend I had always known him. He had now married; his wife was a most amiable lady, and he had a family of three children. It was

It was

gratifying to see his conduct as an affectionate husband and indulgent father. He was esteemed by the neighbouring gentlemen, and beloved by his numerous tenantry. He had every thing around him, of a worldly nature, which could tend to comfort ; but yet I thought that I discerned occasionally a trace of care upon his open forehead. only at times; for he was in conversation as cheerful, and in society as interesting, as ever. I did not like to question him, as I concluded he would of himself, from the ingenuousness of his character, lead to the subject, if he thought fit to speak of it at all. I waited, therefore, though with some anxiety, yet with a hope that perhaps there was no ground for my surmise. One thing I observed, that he never touched on a religious topic. He appeared once on the Sunday at the parish church ; but that was the only sign given of his professing any religion at all. And when I strove to direct the discourse to this subject, he evidently took pains to change or break off the conversation.

When I had been at the park about a fortnight, Sir William said to me one morning, as he was mounting bis horse to go a hunting, “ Emerson, you are fond of visiting cottages—there's a poor man just dying about a mile off; he was run over last night, I hear, by a waggon, and is in great distress. I wish you would call there in your walk to-day, and see if there is any relief we can send him.” With these words, he galloped off. In about an hour's time, as I was sallying forth to the cottage he had described, my attention was arrested by a crowd of persons at a distance, moving slowly towards me. I quickened my steps, and was overwhelmed with horror and grief when I saw that they were bearing an apparently lifeless body, which I instantly perceived to be that of my friend. To rush to his side, and grasp his hand, and to question his attendants what fatal accident had occurred, was the work of an instant. I with difficulty learned from their incoherent answers, that, in leaping a hedge, liis horse had fallen, and, dashing him with violence against the ground, had rolled upon him. He still lived, though perfectly insensible; and it was my melancholy duty to hasten to Lady F- and, as gently as I could, to apprise her of the calamity. I need not dwell upon the grief of that morning, or attempt to describe our agonized suspense while the surgeon who had been sent for was examining Sir William's hurts. His report at last was but too confirmatory of our worst fears. There was littlethere was in fact no hope, he said ; sensation would return,

[ocr errors]


and life might last a few days perhaps, but recovery was impossible.

Several hours had elapsed before the patient awoke to a full perception of his calamity. Lady F

and I were sitting beside his bed, when we heard his feeble whisper, « Where am I?- what has befallen me ?In a few minutes he looked at us with perfect consciousness : and I shall never forget the smile—it was one which told of so much gratitude, yet so much wretchedness, with which he tried to thank us for our attention to him. That night no individual, except the poor children, closed an eye in Park. Grievous was the pain with which Sir William was racked, and vain were all the attempts to alleviate his agony. The next day, however, towards noon, he fell into a kind of unquiet sleep; and I, scarcely knowing whither I went, strolled sadly, for a little breath of air, across one of the plantations.

I had walked some distance, when I perceived myself near the cottage which Sir William had mentioned to me. I tapped at the door, and was admitted by a sour-looking

In answer to my inquiries, she said that the manJohn Hopkins she believed his name was, at least so he called himself; she knew nothing of him but from himself; he was only a lodger there—had, while helping to load a waggon, fallen from the top of it; and, the horses at that moment moving on, had been crushed by the wheel. The doctor had said he could do nothing for him, and little enough time, said the woman, she had to attend him-she must take care of her own children.

Disgusted at her unfeeling language, I passed by her into the room where poor Hopkins lay.

“ My friend " I said, “ I am grieved to hear of your sad accident."

“ It is the Lord,” faintly replied the sufferer, “ let him do what seemeth him good."

I was truly rejoiced to hear these words, and asked —" Are you, then, able patiently to submit to God's will ?"

I trust,” said Hopkins, “ I know whom I have believed ; and if, as I feel must be the case, my death be near at hand, I trust that, through the merits of my Saviour, to die will be my gain. In the world I have had tribulation, but in Christ I have peace-most precious peace."

Seeing that he was too weak to bear much conversation, I simply commended him in prayer to God, and left him with a promise that I would visit him again the next day. On my return to the park, I found that Sir William was

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »