Page images
PDF
EPUB

I was going to do? I told her ; adding, with great solemnity, that it was impossible to come at the true meaning of Scripture without reading the origival ; endless errors had been grounded upon mistranslation: it was essential to every one to be able to defend the pure doctrine of the gospel, by an appeal to the Hebrew text. This was the first time, I believe the only time, I ever saw my grandmother angry.

All else she had attributed to modern notions and a change of times; but to tell her that one word of her Bible—that very quarto Bible, which for forty years had never been left a day unopened—was not right, or could be altered for the better, was to touch her only source of happiness and hope. I cannot bear to think now of the tears I so unnecessarily brought into her eyes. • Child,' she said, dropping her usual appellative of “ dear,” “your grandmother has lived too long. I remember when I was a child upon his knee, my grandfather would tell me stories of the joy and thanksgiving that were among the godly, when the Bible was put into English, that all might understand it: but now, it seems nobody can understand it but those that can put it back again! May God keep you from delusion! I smiled at her ignorance, but said not amen to her prayer. My study advanced rapidly ; for I was exceedingly quick in learning. I studied hard ; made, as my master assured me, amazing progress; and, of course, believed that, at the end of the six lessons, I understood the language, and had only to make use of what I knew. I now ventured to join in argument upon the abtruser points of doctrine. Certain metaphysical questions at that time ran high, and I became a violent partisan—from a real desire, I believe, to advance the truth, but not considering that disputa

tion might not be my calling. I treated those as vulgar and narrow minds, who attempted to lay stress on personal religion, the simplicity of divine truth, and the sanctification of the heart; the commonplace slang of religion, as I called it; and gave my attention only to those who entertained me with ingenious interpretations, nice distinctions, and, as they believed them, deep and comprehensive views. Of these I understood just enough to be misled, and lose in them all care for what was really important; but by no means enough to appreciate their value, or judge of their correctness. I learned to talk, however, and I had Hebrew enough to confound all who contradicted me. Say what they would, I said it was an error in the translation—the Hebrew was so and so. I did not wait indeed to be inquired of. I had a real concern for the souls of those who were floundering, as I thought, in vulgar error, and took pains to disseminate my new-learned doctrines : carrying always my Hebrew Bible in my pocket, of which I could yet produce little more than a few peculiar words and passages, on which I rang the changes of my party. I do not know whether I converted anybody to my errors-being opinions, of which I saw not the consequences, nor the necessary inferences, nor anything but the bare statement, and that frequently misapprehended ; but I soon perceived that prudent parents did not desire my intimacy for their daughters-sober and devoted Christians said · Kumph! to my tirades of doctrine, and showed no disposition to talk to me: and men, from whom I was endeavouring to get information, smiled at my production of Hebrew roots, and asked how long I had studied the language, not altogether as if they admired my accuracy. This affected not my vanity, for display had not been my object;

but in pursuit of utility and truth, I found myself involved deeper and deeper in confusion, while those ! whom I desired to benefit, became more and more regardless and suspicious of what I said. And with i ample reason ; for I did not understand myself the recondite opinions I set forth, and had lost in them all the savour of divine truth. Even the poor whom I visited, wished I would talk to them out of their own Bible, for mine was quite different; and some suggested, that since the Bible turned out to be all wrong, they did not see what was the use of reading it. To myself, this was likely to have been the saddest failure of

any. For in the years that I thus occupied myself with criticism and controversy, I neglected my English Bible altogether, and my personal interest in it. My character lost its tone of spirituality, which, if it had never been very deep, had been true and simple. Instead of being enlarged, as I conceived it would be, my mind, small enough before, was contracted and bound down to the system of a party, and the conceits of a sect. These having after a time dispersed, or changed their minds, or dropped discussions that had never engrossed them as they did me, I found that all the gain of three or four more years, was uncertainty of faith upon the most simple truths, neglect of the

ordinary means of grace, carelessness of practice, and some certain quantity of Hebrew roots, for which I had no longer any use.

Still, as far as I know, my purpose of heart was single. I needed but to see my error to abandon it; to perceive what I thought a better way, and enter upon it. After another season, therefore, of doubt, discouragement, and almost despondency, I determined to leave study, and return to practical utility.

"I was now the mother of several children, and

the mistress of a large establishment. Time and experience had given me more knowledge of myself; the society of a pious and well-informed husband had improved my understanding; and since I gave up controversy, I had studied more and prayed more; and the detection of former error had imparted to me a distincter knowledge of the truth, at the same time that my character had gained solidity, and my knowledge of mankind had necessarily increased. It seemed that I was now more capable of being useful; and this was still the predominant desire of my heart. But how to set about it. Providence had indeed surrounded me with duties. I had children to bring up; a household to rule; immortal souls committed to my guidance; and my grandmother, disabled and paralytic, depended upon me for every thing. Still no one suggested to me that my calling might possibly be at home. One came to me and asked me to become patroness to a society; another begged to put my name upon a committee; a third requested me to be visiter at an infant school; a fourth wanted me to get up a repository; a fifth to be treasurer of a saving-fund; a sixth to be a directress of a working society; a seventh to be inspector to a tract society; an eighth to open adult schools; a ninth to reform prisons; a tenth to convert Catholics; an eleventh to free slaves ; a twelfth—but why go on? More than a hundred solicitors came to me; each one assuring me, that what she proposed was a field of unbounded usefulness, in which she had exerted herself, she hoped, with the blessing of God, to the benefit of others and her own. And I believe that each one spoke the truth. She had known her calling, pursued it ardently, and obtained a blessing whence she expected it. I loved their zeal, coveted the rich reward of their success, determined to imi.

tate them all, and undertook every thing that was proposed to me.

“And now I was involved in incessant occupation. The days were not long enough for my charitable labours. I was never in my house but when a committee was assembled there. My name was upon every list, and my presence in every place. What good I did, God only knows: if any, he will look graciously on the record he has kept of it. There was good done: but I often thought not more than would have been, had I not been there. I had no particular turn for business. I had nothing of that strong, hard, bustling character, usually called management. On most occasions I was an important and well-looking cypher, saying “ay' to what others proposed. My money and my name were all that was really useful, I believe. Or, if otherwise, the good I did I never knew; what I left undone was but too apparent. Having no time to attend to my children, I committed the management of them to others. They had governesses, to whom I left them with unbounded confidence, till, by accident, I saw something amiss, and then I sent them away; the children got beyond everybody's management, and then I sent them to school. They owe not to their mother any thing they know, or are—for what they are not, their mother may be questioned. As I was never at home, my servants were left to their own discretion; I gave them no religious instruction, advice, or superintendence. I gave them no habits of domestic regularity. I knew not, in short, how they spent their time, or how conducted themselves. To my husband's society I became almost a stranger, and brought little but discomfort to his home. If he was disposed to communicate, I had no time to listen: if he needed my counsel, I was too busy to attend to

« PreviousContinue »