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sudden departure of a father whom she tenderly loved, was a great grief to Miranda. But her áunt consoled her, by observing, that she looked upon it as a kind proví. dence ; since, before his return, she hoped she would be better established in the faith, and more able to cope with those difficulties which she had reason to expect would be the result of her change of sentiment i
As Mr. Barnwell was unable to conjecture how long hd would be absent, he dismissed all his servants, except the housekeeper, gardener, and groom, and left his plate at the house of Mr. Pink, an acquaintance of his, who lived in the parish. He desired his daughter to continue with her aunt till his return. He remarked, that she had not recovered her vivacity ; but this he imputed to some remains of her disorder : for it was impossible that Mr. Barnwell should conceive, stranger as he was to real religion, that any one should be cheerful and happy, if he were not gay, brisk and merry.
Miss Barnwell spent her time at her needlc, in reading the Holy Scriptures, in attending upon divine worship, and in conversing with her aunt, who was a lady of an excellent understanding.
Of all her acquaintance in the country, there were none whom she esteemed equally to the Miss Nevilles : indeed their regard for each other was sincere ; and as they lived but four miles asunder, and the road was good, they were frequently together. From these young ladies she received several letters upon common-place subjects, and about the news of the day, to which she returned answers of a similar kind. But when she had been vith her aunt about nine months, she ventured to touch on a religious subject. The following is an extract from her letter: '..
“ You tell me the country is mopish and melancholy without nie. But indeed, ladies, if you expect that kind of pleasure in my company which you formerly experienced, you will be mistaken. I am no longer the Miranda Barnwell I was. Eternity, my dear friends, is coming on with hasty steps, to take place of time: our fleeting moments, therefore, ought to be better employed than in vain amusements. I pray that my dear young friends may escape the wrath to come, and that they may be convinced, that nothing can recommend them to the divine favour, but the obedience and sufferings of the Redeemer; since they only are the righteousness, in which a guilty sinner can appear at the awful tribunal of God with comfort. I too well know, that you will think it impertinent in me to undertake to teach you in things of this nature; but I should think any longer silence inexcusable in the sight of God: and henceforth it is He whom I intend first and chiefly to please.
“ The singular respect I have for you, ladies, induces me to pray the Father of mercies, that you may be led to examine upon what your hope of eternal life is founded: Believe, ine, my dear friends, or rather believe the word of God, that it is not a penance prescribed, nor an absolution pronounced, either by a Catholic or Protestant priest, which can take away sins; that can only be effected by the blood of Jesus Christ,"
D. MY DEAR MISS BARNWELL, * 29314 Po l o W E received your kind letter, the conclusion of which as much surprised me, as it displeased my sister. I believe I may safely confess to my friend, that she and I are so far agreed as to have one hope of eternal life Yes, my dear Miranda, I am, through the mercy of God, fully.convinced, that nothing can recomiend me to the divine fa. your but the obedience and atonement of the Redeemer. I perceive that this truth is the great outline of the Old and New Testament, however it may be rejected by the wise and prudent of this world. I beg you will pray for me, that I may be led into all truth by the Holy Spirit, and that fortitude and resolution may be given me. I feel myself to be very weak; and should utterly despair, did I not hope and trust that the grace of Christ will prove sufficient for me, and that his strength will be made perfect in my weakness. If my brother, my dear brother, were at home, I could unbosom myself to him; but I dare not take that liberty with my sister, who is extremely violent against every sentiment which she esteems heretical. The samo prejudice was in me: but now I believe, that no opinion ought either to be embraced or rejected, because it is held by this or that party.
I have now no doubt that there are many Christians among protestants, although formerly I should have considered any one as a heretic who had asserted it. Having been acquainted with Protestants of a very bad kind, when I compared their lives with that strictness and zeal for God which were visible in my own family, you will not wonder that I preferred our own religion to yours. I can however perceive, notwithstanding all this strictness in the repeti. tion of prayers, in fasting, in almsgiving, and in every thing enjoined by the church, in which my honoured parent is unwcaried, that yet something is wanting. Yes, Miranda, through the mercy of God, I have discovered, that a person may give all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned, and yet be destitute of that true chari. ty, or love to God, which is essential to religion. And not only so, but the love of God itself has many counterfeits. I used to derive my notions concerning God and Christ from pictures and images, endeavouring to work up my mind to a love and veneration of them as thereby represented. But I thank the father of mercies, that I now perceive my error, and am convinced that the works and the word of God are the only true representation of the invisible Jehovah. The love of God's mind and will revealed to the children of men, is the genuine love of God; and the love of what Christ said and did, and of what he is now
doing, is the love of Christ. I'spoke in this manner some time past to my sister; and she thinking it a reflection on images, pronounced it to be heresy. By this argument I have been frequently confuted. I am indeed a coward. I don't know how I could be a martyr for Christ : but my hope is, that my God will give me strength equal to my trials.. ...:
I lately told my sister, that I doubted whether the consecrated elements of bread and wine were proper objects of worship, admitting that they were transubstantiated into the real body and blood of Christ; since it was God mani. fest in the flesh who was the proper object of divine worship, and not the flesh in which he was inanifested.* ?"
* You make me tremble, Eusebia, cried she : such heretical thoughts ought to be repressed.'.'
Are we, my dear sister, replied I, never to see through our own eyes? Are we never to judge for ourselves? Ought we not to examine whether a thing be false, before we consider whether it be heretical?! In "B its "By no means, replied she. This would be to begin at the wrong end. We ought first to examine whether it be heretical; and if we find it to be heretical, we ought then to conclude that it is false. Would it not be presumption to set up our own private judgment against the determinations of the church? ** I was silent. Perhaps it was my duty to be so; as there was no appearance that by continuing the conversa. tion, I could render her any service.
Your letter, my dear friend, gave me much pleasure ; for I have here no one to converse with, except a poor man and his wife, named Livingstone. These I have dis.. covered to be real Christians; and their conversation has been very instructive to me. They are now in the lowest circumstances, but have seen better days; though he would scarcely allow the propriety of that expression. I once intimated something of this kind to him, and he replied, that his God and Father had chosen his portion for him, and that he believed that station to be the best, 'all things .considered, in which providence has placed him. He is a Dissenter, and goes every Sunday to hear a person at Barnwell whose name is Lowe, and he speaks very much in praise of his minister.
O Miranda! I should be happy if my dear parent did but know and love the truth as well as Thomas Livingstone, even if he were in the same circumstances. Alas! what is the most exalted sphere of life to us, if we are ignorant of the true God, and enemies to salvation by the death of Christ? My dear father is all that I could wish as a man. His benevolence to the poor, of all denominations, is far beyond any thing I have seen, and equals any thing I have read of. But alas, as faith without works is dead, so works without faith are dead also.
I am exceedingly happy in the company of Thomas and his good wife, and whenever I can steal an hour in the evening I spend it with them. How magnificent appears in my eyes the little cottage wherein they reside. There dwell, say I to myself, two heirs of eternal glory'; while many a superb mansion is disgraced by being the habitation of the sons of Belial ;--of men, who evidently have their portion in this life. O that God may be my portion ! This is all I ask. A little cottage like this of my friend Livingstone's, with the divine presence and blessing, I trust I should not consider as too humble a dwelling. That place cannot be dishonourable where God resides. s I beg you will purchase for me the Nonconformists Memorial. I saw it at a house in our village, and borrow ed it for a short time. Among these sufferers for the cause of Christ, I found Christians of a very different : stamp to those I had hitherto been acquainted with in the church of England. I have not sufficient ,fortitude to in. form my dear father of my change of sentiment, lest it should overwhelm him with grief. Whatever befall me, spare, O my God, I beseech thee, my dear parent! It is my consolation that thou canst do everything. 11:1 1
I need not desire my friend to show this letter to no person except Mrs. Worthington. I have long known her