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Occurrence in a western village.
appeal of Bishop Meade, to which you have been listening
One of the most beautiful villages in the distant Westthose villages which are so thickly strewn along the great road leading from the Hudson to Lake Erie-now stands on the spot which was the scene of the little narrative I am about to relate. It was then a comparatively wild and uncultivated region. The striking beauties, however, which now never fail to arrest the attention of the passing traveller, the richness and fertility of the soil, the luxuriant growth of vegetation, the ever-varying aspect of the lake, stretching into one wide expanse of pure transparency, and the beautifully undulating character of the surrounding country, were even then obvious to the eye of the most superficial observer.
At the time to which I refer, there might have been some three or four hundred inhabitants in this place. On almost all subjects, however, they entertained variant and conflicting sentiments. This was to be attributed to the fact that they were a community but recently congregated, and that they had come from almost every quarter of the globe. It is not surprising, therefore, that they did not harmonize in their religious opinions. Indeed, so much discrepancy prevailed in relation to this matter, that for some time they dispensed altogether with religious worship. But as the population increased, while the state of morals continually deteriorated, it became obvious to all, that the bands of society could not be held together without the salutary restraints of religion. A missionary of the Episcopal church was procured, owing principally to the circumstance that the most wealthy and influential individual of the place, a land agent, Colonel Fnominal Episcopalian. This gentleman had formerly resided in one of the cities of the eastern states, had been educated in the Episcopal church, and thought it proper that his children should be received by baptism into its bosom. But though he had a general respect for religion, and some of its external observances, he was still devoted to the world. The circumstance of his residing in a new country, cut off from religious privileges, had a tendency to render him and his family careless and indifferent as to the things that concerned their everlasting peace. The mis
Account of Laura F
sionary who was procured, was successful in organizing and rearing up a small Episcopal church in the place. In many respects he was a most worthy man. His chief defect was a want of firmness—of that apostolic boldness which leads a man conscientiously to discharge his duty without any regard to consequences. He had not the moral courage to rebuke sin in its high places. Colonel F—and his family and their connexions were among his chief patrons. They affected great state, and lived a gay, pleasure-taking life. Though on the Lord's-day, they were usually at the house of worship in the morning, the afternoon was not unfrequently spent amid the festivities of a dinner party. This gross violation of the sanctity of God's holy day was never animadverted upon with sufficient faithfulness by the pastor.
Colonel F was distinguished for hospitality. His house was ever thronged with company. It was a place of resort for gentlemen from every part of the country. There was scarcely a night in which they had not a dance. To the inmates of his family, life was one continued round of fashion, and gayety, and dissipation. He had an only daughter, who was brought up in the midst of this scene of worldliness. She was indeed a most lovely girl. Her sylph-like form, and sweet amiable features, as she moved with winning grace through the circles assembled in her father's hall, seemed to bespeak a creature of unearthly origin.
În all worldly accomplishments Laura F— had been most thoroughly instructed. Having now entered her sixteenth year, young, beautiful, and every way prepossessing in her manners, she was the idol of her parents, the charm of her friends, and an object of admiration in every circle in which she moved. But the fell destroyer had selected her as his victim.
She was suddenly and violently seized with disease. Medical advice was immediately obtained. But all the skill of the healing art could not arrest the steady, onward ravages of the destroyer. And now, when her case began to be looked upon as hopeless, the minister of God was sent for. He came with haste. It was indeed a solemn scene. That dwelling, where pleasure had so long kept her court, and held her banqueting-house, was now a house of mourn
ing. And oh, the scene in the sick and dying chamber! the parents weeping in all the agony of inconsolable grief; the physician standing mute by the bed-side of his patient, with an air of despondency; and the young, fair, and once beautiful Laura, now lying all pale and ghastly, her countenance racked with pain, and turning an imploring look to one and another in vain for relief!
This must have been an awful moment to those parents. They would now have given worlds had they been as assiduous in their endeavours to train their child for heaven, as they had been unwearied in fitting her to shine and to be admired among men. But they had totally neglected her religious education. Though they had brought her in infancy to baptism, they had never sought to acquaint her with her character as a sinner, or to lead her to the feet of Jesus, that she might hear the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth.
And this, too, must have been a trying moment to that minister. For, alas ! neither had he spoken to Laura in private about her never-dying soul. He plainly saw the time was short. He therefore took his stand by the bed, and kindly addressing himself to the dying girl, said:
“I have come to do for you all that is in my power. You are very sick. We ought to consider, when any sickness comes upon us, this may be our last sickness. I suppose you have often thought about dying, and reflected that you must die ?"
“What!” said Laura with a sharp startling accent, that operated like an electric shock upon every one in the room, “ do you think I am going to die ?”
The agitated pastor replied:
“It is always profitable to think, that any sickness that is upon us may be our last : have you never thought of dying ?”
“O, no, no," said she, with a shrill, piercing voice; “surely I never thought of dying! O mother, mother, must I die!"
So deeply were all overwhelmed with feeling, that at first none could reply. At length, the minister thus again commenced his remarks.
“ The great business which you have to attend to,
Last hours and
Laura, is to be prepared for death: and if you are only prepared, it is of little consequence whether you or at some future time.”
“O, yes, it is ; I cannot die. Doctor, cannot you cure me? Is there not something you can do for me?"
The minister went on to say:
“Do not let the thought of dying distract your mind so as to lose sight of a preparation for death. Do you not know that you are a sinner, that you ought to repent, that you must obtain pardon from God, through Christ, in order to die in peace ?"
“ No, I do not know any thing about these things; I never thought about dying.”
“But will you not try to think of them now?"
“ Will you not pray to God that he will ease your pains ; and, above all, that he will pardon your sins, and give you a new heart."
“I cannot pray." 6. Shall I
?” “ Yes. And 0, pray
that I Amid this agonizing scene the minister of Christ kneeled down, and offered up a most fervent supplication to God. The solemn tones of prayer were now heard along those walls, which before had so often rung to the sounds of revelry. There was an humble confession of past unfaithfulness, and a deep fervent strain of petition, for mercy and help in this moment of need. In the intensity of his feelings, the minister was led to wrestle long with God for the desired blessing—for the conversion of a dying sinner. When he rose from his knees, and returned to the bed, he perceived that Laura was greatly changed. But it was not the change of the inner man. It was the demolition of the tenement in which the struggling soul still lingered, while the spirit, just stretching its wings to take its flight, was wrapt in darkness, all “ unanointed and unannealed.”
To the dying Laura, who seemed now more free from bodily pain, he again spoke :
“Do you not feel that you can now look to Christ, and hope through his atoning blood for the pardon of your sins ?'
may not die."
“ I do not know that I can,” said she, with a faint and feeble voice, and with all the frankness of infantine simplicity.
“But are you not now praying to him to have mercy upon you, and to give you a new heart ?”!
I do not know that I am,” said she, with a feebler tone, while the current of life was evidently every moment rapidly ebbing.
These were her last words. The minister went home. He humbled himself before God. He now saw where he had neglected his duty. He began to seek out the lambs of his flock. He sought to instruct them in the way of godliness. His efforts were blessed. Often did he mourn over his former unfaithfulness, and think in bitterness of Laura, poor Laura F
About this time he received a notice of a visitation from his diocesan. He went from house to house to converse with the young, and to beseech them to remember their Creator in the days of their youth. He met them regularly once a week to give them religious instruction. He bore them continually in his heart before God in prayer. He reminded their parents of the sacred obligations that rested upon them. Thus the whole parish was stirred up. And when the chief minister of the church arrived, this pastor had the satisfaction of presenting to him a goodly number
decided evidence of true conversion and deep piety. As they stood up before the bishop, to make a solemn profession of Christ, the thoughts of their minister very naturally were carried forward to that solemn, happy hour when Christ would own them, crowned in glory as his friends before his Father, and all his holy angels. There was one thought only to sadden the scene, and imbitter his reflections. As his eye moved over the congregation it fell upon the sable weeds and weeping countenances that were assembled in the family pew of Col.
- Their Laura, O their Laura, where was she?
The application I would now make of this narrative to the subject before us, is, that where the rite of confirmation is regularly administered, at stated periods, by a faithful diocesan, it is likely to call ministers and parents to a sense of their duty and obligations, and prevent the occur