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Cottager's Monthly Visitor.
The Lord of a certain great manor determined to give a feast to his friends, neighbours, tenants, and dependants. The feast was to be held in a distant part of his estates--but the invitation to partake of it was general; to all who were near and to all who were afar off. It was particular also. Every individual was invited the Lord of the manor wrote bis invitations in a very clear character, and in a language that all could understand. His directions were very distinct, and he caused them to be distributed and proclaimed all over his estates, so that every one had the opportunity of either hearing or reading them. The invitation told them of the place where the feast was to be held, and of the best way of getting to it--that is, it told them which was the right road, what dress they should journey in, and what dress they were to wear at the feast. It did not tell them at what hour the feast would be ready for them, but it advised them to lose no time in setting out, and told them that a very great number and variety of means of conveyance were provided for them, and that, if they were diligent in the right use of these means, they would certainly reach the place in good time and share in the feast. They were requested, advised, and even commanded to accept of this invitation, but they were not forced to do so. They were, however, told that the feast would be more delightful than any thing they had ever yet enjoyed. Now, would you not think that this gracious and kind invitation must have spread joy through all the estate ? would you not think that all who heard the invitation proclaimed would be auxious to read it for themselves ? and that all who either heard or read it would be glad to accept of it? Yet it was not so; there were many who never once lifted up
their eyes from their work, or turned aside from their favourite path, or made a pause in their usual occupations to look out, or to listen to the invitation or the proclaimer of it. Others, though they did lift up their eyes, step out of their path, or pause from their employments, for a few moments, resumed them again as soon as the proclaimer was passed by, talked of them for a little while, and then forgot all about it. But there were others that ran out of their houses and out of their fields to "sée and to listen, the moment the sound first reached their ears, and many more ran out before the sound had reached them, only because their neighbours did so; and thus great crowds collected in many places, though the most part knew not wherefore they had come together. But some looked and listened attentively, and were very anxious to procure a copy of the invitation. Some again were so much taken up with looking about them and talking to their neighbours, that the proclaimer had passed on before they had distinguished him, or heard one word that he said. Others had looked without listening, knew the proclaimer's appearance, his figure, his dress, and his voice exactly, and followed him with their eyes when he moved, and talked much about him when he was gone,—but still knew nothing of the proclamation he had made. Some listened carelessly, and, though they perceived there was something that interested some of their neigli
bours very much, they had no curiosity about it, and no wish to take any trouble in order to find out whether they might be interested in it themselves; others had a good deal of curiosity to know what it was that their neighbours were so much engaged hy; but, not caring otherwise for the information, they contented themselves with reading the invitation in a careless manner. Many of them found the reading hard ; others found it hard to understand, and, being too indolent and too careless to persevere or ask for information, they quickly gave it op and returned to their usual employments. Some, when they had read it through, could not resolve to begin their preparations immediately, but would first go and talk it over with some of their friends, and see if they were going, and consult with them as to which carriage would be best and safest, and whether their own dress and their own carriage might not do as well as those prescribedand at least have their opinion why they might not. Others, when they had carefully read and had good reason to think they understood, yet could not be satisfied till they had compared their copy with others, and had made quite sure that the words could not bear a different meaning from what they appeared to do. Some of these therefore sat at home poring over the words and looking over dictionaries and asking to borrow their neighbours' copies, till the day was far spent and the night was at hand ; and others wasted their day-light in running after the proclaimer to different parts of the estate to make sure that the invitation was the same to all ; and thus they crossed, and looked at, so many roads, that they no longer knew where to find the right one which they were told of in the invitation. The night, in which no man can work, overtook all of these. But there were others, who having quietly and seriously listened to the proclaimer and attentively read the invitation, and understood
the direction, set themselves instantly to comply with them, astonished indeed at the honour done them, and so much overjoyed at the prospect that they could not help fearing they might miss the way or be too late, but certain that the surest way was to follow the directions exactly and immediately. They lost no time, but sought at once for the dress they were desired to wear, and for the appointed means of conveyance.
But even among these honest and wise people there were some, I am sorry to say, who wasted much time in hesitation which of the carriages to chuse. Some delayed their journey by choosing such as were not suited to their size or health, or strength; and not a few of these had to return to the place whence they set out, and try again. Others went on their way painfully and slowly, when, if they had well considered the end of their journey, they might have gone on their way rejoicing ; and some, it is sad to relate, took offence when they found the same means provided for the poorest among their neighbours, as for themselves; some of these delayed setting off, and by their example and false reasonings deterred others from doing so, till the evening shades prevailed. Others by endeavouring to monopolize conveyances, caused contentions, by which all were delayed, and some unfitted for their journey.
You will not now I think wonder to hear, that although the invitation was free and general, and the feast most inviting, the guests at their kind Lord's table, were few in proportion to the number that were invited. And yet I have not told you of the many who heard willingly, and read with pleasure, and then carefully folded up their copy and laid it by to read again at leisure hours, intending, when their morning business was done, to take the cool of the evening, to consider its contents more attentively, and perhaps to set out on the journey, though, for aught they knew, it might require all the hours of
101 the day for its accomplishment; or, before the end of the day, they might be disabled from undertaking it
. Nor have I mentioned those who finding the dress, the carriage, the road, to be different from what their imaginations had suggested (in contradiction to the express words of the proclamation) were disgusted and turned back; nor those who neglecting to furnish themselves with the prescribed dress, or to attend to the directions for guiding their conveyances, were quickly chilled with the rain and wind, or scorched by the sun, or overturned by the first rugged step. Few, very few, of these had time to return and equip themselves anew and perform their journey ere the day was ended. Nor have I spoke of some who sat down in repining indolence, complaining that they were not of the number of those whom the Lord of tbe manor took with him in his own carriage; though who those individuals were, they knew not, and could give no reason why they themselves should have been so favoured. Is it not plain, that all of these who thus missed the of fered boon, missed it through their own fault—their want of attention and their want of faith? Whilst those who, in simplicity and sincerity, heard the word of invitation with gladness, accepted it with thankfulness, and obeyed its directions with unquestioning alacrity, filled with humble gratitude and joyful wonder at the unmerited kindness and condescension of their Lord, found, as they proceeded, that He had provided them with powers for their undertaking, exceeding abundantly, above what they could ask or think, and, when they reached the appointed spot, joys such as eyes had not seen nor ears heard, neither had it entered into the heart of man to conceive, and of which, knowing themselves to be utterly unworthy, they gave to Him all honour, praise and glory.
L. L. September 1822.