« PreviousContinue »
closely to him on the subject of religion. He accordingly commenced, and for some time appeared to be treated with cold indifference, when suddenly Mr. W-turned half round, as if indignant, at the kindness displayed towards him. The hopes of the Captain appeared all blighted. To pursue his conversation further, he conceived would be vain, when he perceived his friend place his elbow upon his knee, and leaning his pale cheek upon his hand, tears, which were sought to be concealed, flowed silently down. This caught the attentive eye of the anxious soldier. Transporting emotions flowed through his soul. He hailed the noiseless stream as a harbinger of coming joy. He did not, however, appear to observe the tears which fell, but left them to work their own effects, not doubting that his prayers and exertions had been rendered instrumental in affecting the mind of his clerical fellow-traveller.
They reached the inn at which they had slept on the last night but one before, when, on entering the parlour, the first question asked of the landlord, by Mr. W
two-bedded room vacant?” On being answered in the affirmative he turned to the Captain, and with an affectionate smile, inquired, “Will you object, Captain Arnold, to sleep in the two-bedded room ?" “Not in the least, my dear sir," replied bis friend. “Indeed, if it accord with your wishes, I shall certainly prefer it.”
No further explanation took place; but after supper, they retired, as on the previous evening;
when, on being left alone, the clergyman, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder, said, in a tone of the most subdued character, “Captain, you know how to pray for yourself, --will you pray for me? Astonishment and joy mingled their efforts, and united their influence so powerfully, as nearly to overcome the pious Captain. He was unable, immediately, to articulate a sound.
Having somewhat recovered himself, he affectionately pressed the hand of Mr. W at the same time congratulating him on the change which had been wrought in his mind; and, kneeling together, he wrestled with God for him, in all the eloquence of heart-felt sensibility, and with all the irresistibility of vigorous faith. The convulsive emotions of the penitent, were seen and audible. They retired, each to his bed, but not to sleep. No! The desire of Mr. W- for information was astonishing. A light, surpassing the brightness of the mid-day sun, had shed its luminous rays across his mind. “Tell me, Captain, about this new birth, or explain to me what it means," was his continued language. Never was teacher more successful, or more happy to instruct; never was pupil more docile and anxious to learn, than the Captain and his friend. The things which had been taught and listened to in former days, as a task, now appeared to be remembered and understood. A peculiar aptitude to comprehend the things of God possessed the mind of the convert.
They reached home on the following night, when the first question asked by Mr. W of his servant, was, “Is Mrs. W well ? how are the children?" The servant stood half confounded, gazing at his master with open eyes and mouth, doubting if he were not suddenly deranged. Had he inquired how Dido, Seraph, Splash, Fortune, or some other of his dogs or horses were, no astonishment would have been excited; but, to ask after his wife and children, was past comprehension. It was what had never been heard before. At length he stammered out,—"Mistress, sir, is, I believe, well; I have not heard of any accident befalling her, sir.”
He passed the servant before he had concluded his speech, and, with the Captain, entered the drawing-room. There sat his too-much neglected wife, surrounded by three or four blooming children. With a half-frantic eagerness he embraced each in turn, dropping a tear on their cheeks as he kissed them, and then, turning to his wife, he said, “My dear, we will have family prayer to-night.” Mrs. W—, turning upon him her affectionate, pleading eye, mildly replied, “Oh, Mr. W-, do not let us add hypocrisy to all our other sins.” .“ No, my dear,” rejoined the now sincerely kind Mr. W- -, “I am, I trust, no hypocrite. I will read a portion from the sacred volume, anā,” continued he, turning to Captain Arnold, “my friend here will pray with us.”
In a few words an explanation was given to his thankful wife, and the bell was rung : a servant entered.” , “John," said his master, "go to my study, and bring me the Bible.” “The Bible, sir?” repeated John, doubting if his ears had not deceived him. “Ah, John, you may well ask if I mean the Bible," replied Mr. W-“Yes, go and bring me that too-long neglected book."--The servant disappeared, and while he was gone for the Bible, the bell was again rung for the other servants. They came with some degree of misgiving, into his presence, endeavouring to call to mind what they had done, and to receive, as they expected, a severe reprimand, as was not unusual with him. They were, however, additionally surprised, when he kindly desired them to take each a seat, while he read, with peculiar emphasis, and solemnity, a portion from the word of God. The Captain prayed, and the evening closed in a way that none had ver witnessed in that dwelling before.
Friday came, and on the following Sabbath, Mr. W-would have, as usual, to meet his flock in the church. He entered his study ;turned over a heap of sermons, one by one, exclaiming to himself, as he threw aside his former exhibitions,—“that will not do ;-that is not proper ;--that is wretched. Is this (he sighed) the trash with which I have been so long in the habit of feeding the souls of my people, or rather starying them with a shadow of the bread of life?
will, however, no more so insult God, and ruin the people of my charge."
Perplexed and confounded, he determined to offer an apology to his people, on the following Sabbath, for not having a sermon for them, on the ground of his recent journey, and so dismiss them. The day arrived, and he entered the desk in the morning, and in an impressive tone, never before heard from him, read the service. There was something even about his appearance and manner, so perfectly new and strange to the people, that they gaped with wonder, scarcely believing the evidence of their senses. He ascended the pulpit, and commenced, by stating his regret that he had not had time to prepare a discourse agreeably to his present views of truth. In undisguised simplicity, he informed them of his recent change; the means, its nature, and its effects; and declared he had been among them as a wolf in sheep's clothing; but that he now determined, by the grace of God, to be a true minister of the gospel which he believed ; walking in and out before them in uprightness, and feeding them with knowledge, and with the bread of life.
Thus he continued, for half an hour or more, preaching Christ to the people, without taking a text, or being aware that he was performing the work which he pledged himself hereafter to accomplish. Overpowered at last by his feelings, he burst into tears, and descending from the pulpit, was met by his weeping friends, who, hanging upon