Miss Lively was a young lady of an amiable temper,great sincerity, and an uncommon flow of spirits; to these nat. ural qualifications was added every accomplishment which might be expected from an afluent situation in life; her company was sought by all the



of her acquaintance, and every visit seemed dull if Miss Lively was not of the party.

Her friends, however, discovered that she was suddenly become gloomy and melancholy; her company was no longer pleasant, and she, whom every one had admired and flattered, was sneered at as a methodist, and avoided as a religious enthusiast. The only kind of enthusiasm which worldly people uniformly condemn. A man may be an enthusiast in poetry, painting, music, or philosophy; that is, he may be unreasonably attached to them, and the world will admire him for that very attachment; but let him shew as great a zeal for the cause of God, and the welfare of his soul, a cause to which our attachment can never be unreasonably strong, nor our attention too eager, and every tongue will condemn him.

The following circumstance occasioned the change in Miss Lively, which rendered her so very disagreeable to her former admirers. On a Lord's day evening one of Miss Lively's friends proposed going to hear a popular minister, who was to preach in the town where she lived. As, from unexpected disappointments, they could not make up their party at carus; it was thought the dull hour might as well be passed away in the house of God, and accordingly these two ladies agreed to go. The discourse was occasioned by the death of a young person who had been suddenly called into eternity; the sermon was adapted to the event, and,

Vol. I. 22

for once in her life, Miss Lively became serious. She listened, mused, wondered at the truths she heard, and in vain endeavored to conceal her flowing tears. When the service was over she went bome with her companion, but not a word was spoken. Each of them carefully concealed from their friends the place where they had been; the one, because she was ashamed of what she felt, and the other, because she was angry with herself, for having been the occasion of all this anxiety and distress to her amiable friend. It was, however, soon visible enough to all, that Miss Lively was deeply affected with something; but nobody could account for it; one suspected that she was ill, another that she had been offended; they were willing to suppose any thing, rather than that their gay companion could be so weak as to be affected by any thing said in a pulpit. They thought of a thousand other causes, while she at an early hour retired to her chamber; but it was to weep, not to rest. The faithful warnings of the preacher still rung in her ear, and she could not sleep. Her distress continued for several days, and was increased by the attempts of her friends to remove it. Their amusements, their pleasures, their vain conversation was loathsome to her; instead of healing they aggravated the wound in her conscience; and in the whole circle of her acquaintance there was not one who could direct her to a remedy. At length it was settled, by all, that she had lost her senses; and the poor distracted girl became the subject of conversation and pity in every company. It was found out that she had been meddling with religion, and there was not a doubt but it had made her mad. Every expression of sympathy for her, was mingled with a caution against having too much to do with religion, and her connexions rejoiced in the persua- . sion that they har just enough to carry them to heaven, without the possibility of its causing any derangement on earth. Indeed, her distress was so great, that, had she not met with relief, it might have ended in real lunacy; but he, “who knoweth our infirmities, and remembereth we are but dust," administered to her strong consolation. Un. der hearing the same minister who had filled her mind with terror, she experienced a degree of comfort. While he was representing Christ as the able avd willing Savior of the chief of sinners, her fears were dissipated, the garment of praise was given her, for the spirit of heaviness, and the oil of joy for mourning. She now became as cheerful as ever, but her happiness flowed from a different source; praise was continually in her lips; she became anxious to bring her acquaintance to the same Savior whom she had found, and fondly imagined if they would but give her a hearing, they must be convinced.

The truths of the gospel appeared to her so plain and so interesting, that she thought wherever they were heard they must be received with gladness. With these views, in all companies, she made religion the subject of her con. versation; hence her carnal acquaintance soon forsook her. Miss Lively, now, laid aside her fashionable dresses, dis. tributed her feathers, her ribands, and other gaudy arti. cles of her wardrobe, and assumed the dress of a methodist, or a quaker. Thus she completely ruined her reputation, with her former friends; and, of all her late ad. mirers, there was scarcely one who would speak to her. This might be wisely ordered by Providence, for her good; as in consequence of it, without any difficulty, she was freed from connexions which, on account of her vivacity, would have been to her a perpetual snare. From a natural easy

turn of mind she could well endure the frowns of the world, and smile at its contempt; but its smiles and caresses must have ruined her.

She soon acquired a new set of acquaintance, who, though inferior to her former ones in quality, in fortune, and in rank, were greatly superior to them in virtue, piety, and solid worth. Their socicty contributed much to her comfort and growth in grace. She had a heart peculiarly formed for the enjoyments of Christian communion,and she frequently stood in need of the counsel, and sometimes of the gentle rebukes of her judicions friends. Her inespe. rience in religion, and the warmth of her temper fre. quently led her into errors. She was always judging of her state in the sight of God, by her own frames and feelings; thus, if she was in a lively frame, she would think well of her state, but when her natural spirits sunk, she would then imagine there was no grace in her heart. The last sermon she heard was the worst, or the best she had ever heard in her life; and, if the preacher did but move the passions, however injudicious, or erroneous, if not grossly so, lie was sure to have her applause. If any person appeared at all under serious impressions, Miss Lively would at once pronounce them converted, and was, sometimes, angry with the more grave and thoughtful, who wished to judge of the trec, not by its blossoms, but by its fruits. Her friends lamented her want of self government; she was somehow betrayed into levities unbecoming her profession. Being in the habitof feeling and speaking warmly, she would often make strong declarations of attacha ment, when, perhaps, she hardly meant half what she said; and sometimes she would make promises without consider.

ing whether she could fulfil them; not to say that she now and then forgot to fulfil them when she was able to do it.

Hasty in her decisions, she would often say and do many imprudent things, and frequently did not use the best means for attaining desirable objects; though it must be allowed, by her activity in embracing seasons of doing good, she often accomplished her end, when the more pru. dent and cautious Christian has lost the season in reflecting upon the most proper means of improving it. The poor often felt her benevolence, and the afflicted were often re. freshed by her kind and friendly visits; her soul was dis. posed to sympathy; she wept with them that wept, and rejoiced with them that rejoiced. Lukewarm professors would be disposed to mark every little failing in a char. acter whose zeal reproached their own indifference; and it is to be lamented that she so often furnished them with an opportunity. Her more intimate friends admired the excellencies, without overlooking the defects of her character, and would sometimes warn her of her danger; Deither was she backward in taking reproof; but whetber the warnings were not given with sufficient faithfulness, or repeated with sufficient frequency, we cannot determine; however it was, Miss Lively seemed but little ben. efited by them; her natural disposition got the better of every effort, and she continued the same imprudent, affectionate, changeable, amiable creature.

At length her haste and imprudence became its own cure; and the kind providence of God accomplished that by afflictions, which the concern of her friends had in vain attempted. A few months after Miss Lively's conversion, her relatives becamesofar reconciled as to behave towards

Vol. I.

* 22

« VorigeDoorgaan »