Page images
PDF
EPUB

holy, had failed to obtain this peace, who, thought he, can find it? His mother's words, “ Holy Mother of God, forgive me, unbeliever as I am," and the tone of agony in which she uttered them, still seemed to ring in his ears, with a sound at once most painful and perplexing. At the close of one of these seasons of musing, when his countenance too plainly spoke the agitation of his mind, Clara entered the room. The sight of her brother's grief revived her own, -she ran to him and wept in his arms. “ Dear Hubert,” said she at last,“ such strange thoughts fill my mind; tell me, can you tell me, why must our dear departed parent go to that dreadful purgatory? How does Father Joachim know that she is there? If God, who made us, loves the good, why must my dear kind mamma, who loved and obeyed him, suffer thus ?" “ Cease, cease, dear sister,' replied Hubert, “ we must not repine, you know the very best of us at times have done what is wrong, and when the souls of the righteous have been perfected by the fires of purgatory, they will be for ever happy in heaven.

« Oh, but the thought is dreadful of what we must suffer first, how I fear to die, indeed I cannot love God, I can only fear Him."

“ Nay, that is wrong, God ought to be loved," Hubert was about to say, but a feeling of awe overpowered that of affection, as he now saw God only as an angry judge, inflicting punishment on a mother so dearly loved. Unwilling to dwell on the subject, he told his sister she was too young to understand such solemn things; they must be. lieve what was taught them by their Church and priest, and that it was useless to embitter life by dreading futurity. Poor Clara derived little comfort from this kind of reasoning, and retired to rest more sad than ever. Early the next morning she rushed into Hubert's room, traces of tears were on her cheeks, yet her eyes beamed with pleasure, “ Oh Hubert grieve no more, mamma is happy, I am sure she is, I have had such a sweet dream, in which she came and told me so." Hubert kissed the affectionate child and remained silent. " You do not believe me I see,” said Clara, and her eyes again filled with tears, “ you do not know how wretched I was till that sweet dream comforted me, and I do believe that Jesus sent it to me, for I prayed to Him, and not to the virgin. Indeed, Hubert, Jesus must love us best, for, as Annette often told me, He died to save us, which you know proves how much He loved us."

Hubert looked at his sister and knew not what to say. Hitherto he had viewed her only as a playful child, and less disposed than most children to talk about religion. Though her dream chased not the gloom from his heart, it had made her so happy that it appeared cruel to dispel the illusion, yet the tone in which she spoke of the virgin appeared to him irreverent; and the name of Annette recalled painful feelings, for he well knew she had been once deeply valued by his mother as a devoted and affectionate nurse, but having embraced heretical principles, had been dismissed from her service, and never heard of more. Seeing her brother remain silent, Clara added with increased energy, “I am afraid Hubert you will be angry with me, I am sure Father Joachim will, but my dream has made me so happy I do not fear his anger. Last night I could not sleep, the thought of dear mamma in such dreadful sufferings quite prevented me. I counted my beads again and again, repeated all my prayers to the virgin, but my heart was more sad than ever. Then I remembered Annette told me the virgin was but a woman, she could not hear our prayers, and it was sinful to pray to her. I loved Annette, and grieved she should have said ought so wrong. I asked the virgin to teach her better, and again tried to sleep. My head ached much from crying, and I shut my eyes, when, all at once, I seemed to be in the pretty cottage where Annette lived, and Pierre was sitting with his arm round my neck, as he used to do when we played together, and much that Annette said then came to my mind, and what she read from the Bible about the Blessed Jesus (you never heard it Hubert), how He loved.us; and a pretty verse I had quite forgotten came to my memory, in which Jesus says, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.' The longer I thought, the more I hoped He would hear me, so I started from my pillow, and, kneeling down, ventured to say · Lord Jesus, deign to hear a little child, and make my dearest parent happy;' and never did I feel before so sure my prayer was heard. At last I fell asleep, and, in my dream, mamma appeared, clothed in white, and looking so happy ; • Clara,' said she, « love your Saviour. Tell Hubert He brought me here. I was going to speak to her, when I awoke and found it a dream." Father Joachim at this instant entered the room, at the door of which he had for some time been an attentive listener. Clara had hitherto been only the plaything of this Jesuit priest, who little feared heresy from a sportive child. Taking her hand with more than usual kindness, he told her he had heard her last few words, assured her that the Holy Mother was too kind and gracious to turn a deaf ear to her prayers. “ Dear Father,” replied Clara, “I am but a child, yet I did pray most earnestly for my dear mamma, and I do believe that Jesus heard me.” “ Doubt it not my child, He is very merciful, nor can He refuse the prayers of His mother. Did you not ask her to intercede for you ?” “Yes, again and again, but I felt no comfort till I prayed to the Saviour, and I do believe He heard me, and sent that dream to comfort me.” “ You err on that point. You should thank our gracious Lady, to whom you are indebted for an answer to prayer." « Dear Father, I love to think that Jesus heard me, may I not thank him too." " Doubtless, my child, the Holy Mother intercedes for us, and then the Son grants our prayers.” “Does the virgin love us then more than Jesus, and does He hear our prayers only because she asks ? ” inquired Clara with a look of pain. “ Annette told me that Jesus loved us most, and proved his love by dying for our sins." “ Clara," said the Father in a sterner tone, “I forbid you to speak of that unhappy woman. She was an enemy of our holy faith, and if she planted error in your young mind, her condemnation will be the greater.” Then, seeing the tears in the child's eyes, he softened his voice, gently adding, “ Your departed parent talked not thus ; she reverenced and prayed to the Holy Mother; with her dying breath she exhorted you to cleave to our holy faith. Have her children so soon forgotten her.” “Oh Father,” said both in one voice, *think not we can forget her last command ;” and, yielding to her feelings, Clara threw herself at his feet, entreating pardon, and promising to think no more of what Annette had told her. “ I pardon your error, but beware how you fall into the same again; and be very careful to tell me all your thoughts and feelings. Thus only can you be preserved from error. For how can an ignorant child like you judge of such solemn and mysterious subjects. Again, I charge you to be aware of self-conceit, and shudder at preferring your own judgment to that of your spiritual guides and the holy Church, which only is infallible.”

Humbled, yet happy, Clara retired to rest that night, strictly cautioned not to mention her dream. She was yet allowed to believe it was really sent by the virgin, who had answered her prayers, and delivered her mother's soul from purgatory. She strove to check a feeling of regret that arose when she remembered Annette, and the sweet truths she had taught her, and by redoubled devotedness to the virgin, to atone for the fault of which she had been guilty.

And here we would remark how great a sin the Church of Rome commits when she teaches her people to pray to a creature instead of the Saviour. How many immortal souls are thus deluded, taught to believe a lie, kept from coming to that one mediator, “ who took not upon Him the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham," that He might be touched with their infirmities. Oh, it is, it must be, deeply painful to a devoted Christian, to see so many thousands of their fellow-creatures lavishing npon saints and angels the love, the adoration, which ought to be given only to Christ, and which would be given, were His love to the race of Adam faithfully proclaimed, and believingly received. Yes, it is a sight to make angels weep, and fiends rejoice, to see thousands of immortal beings, redeemed by such a costly sacrifice, prostrating themselves in lowly gratitude and devout adoration, not so much before Him who has so loved them, as before one who was once a mortal, a fellow-sinner like themselves, yet one whom they ignorantly believe to be quite as able, and more willing, to save them than that adorable Being, who was so rightly styled by the inspired prophet, “ Wondrous ;" at once “ the Babe of Bethlehem," and the Almighty God.

After the conversation just related, Father Joachim laboured to implant in the minds of Hubert and Clara a greater dread of listening to any conversation, or indulging in any thoughts, which might tend to shake their faith, which he assured them were the suggestions of the evil one, and would, if not resisted, lead to their final destruction. Hubert felt no desire to disobey, his mother's dying injunction was too well remembered, and he assured the Father his only desire was to be better informed as to his duty, that he might attain to the heaven of the virtuous. Clara was likewise brought to feel how much she had sinned in despising the Holy Mother's intercession. A visit which she soon after paid to the Convent of Grey Nuns, confirmed for the time her views of Annette's impiety, when she saw the reverence paid to the virgin by all the holy sisters.

Chapter II.

Five years had passed since that sad day, in which her weeping children had caught the last sigh, and listened to the last words, of Lady de Montmorency. Time, which soothes the roughest woes, had healed the wound made in the hearts of the bereaved, but time had not effaced from the mind of Hubert the impressions made by that deathbed. Time had not caused him to forget his mother's caution, to beware of those who would lead him from the one true Church; yet, strange to say, though he had not forgotten, though he had so long shunned the society of all who were not devoted Romanists, at the time we now resume his history, none occupied a place in his affections so strongly as a Protestant Englishman, named Willoughby. We will not relate the circumstances which led to their acquaintance, neither will we stop to trace the gradual progress of their friendship, nor the manner in which Hubert endeavoured to persuade himself that zeal for the conversion of his friend justified his neglecting his mother's parting admonition. Their tastes, pursuits, and feelings were similar on every subject but the most important, yet this difference in religion had not prevented them from feeling an interest, an interest in one another even painfully intense, from each believing the other to be in dangerous error, and each resolving (at first with all the ardour of youth) to convince his friend of the error of his creed, for neither of them could adopt the false liberality of the poet :

“For forms of faith, let senseless zealots fight,

His can't be wrong, whose life is in the right.” To the eye of a casual observer, little difference would have apa peared in the lives of Ernest Willoughby and Hubert de Montmorency, but there was a difference, a vital one, though He who searches the heart alone could discern how widely different were the motives which influenced their conduct. Was an appeal made for aid in any benevolent cause, both equally responded to it; the one to procure that favour he longed to merit, the other from an humble conviction he already enjoyed that favour, and while (from gratitude to Him who formed and died to redeem him) most forward in every work of faith and labour of love, deeply felt, as well as owned, he was “an unprofitable servant.”

5. What book was that over which you were so lost in thought when I intruded on your solitude ?” enquired Hubert one evening of his friend.

“ An unfashionable book," replied Ernest, ashamed of the blush which covered his forehead, “ but a book I was early taught to reverence, and from which I have derived sweeter peace than the world can ever bestow. It is the Bible.”

“ And do you think,” added Hubert with warmth, that dissipated the embarrassment of his friend, “ that Catholics are taught to reverence that sacred Word less than Protestants ? "

“ I do not know that they may not reverence it, but I believe it impossible for those who are not allowed freely to search its sacred pages to love it as the guide of their feet, and the lamp of their paths,

Vol. VIII.— September, 1846 D D New Series, No. 9

or for those who only have it doled out at the will of the priests, to taste its sweetness as they do, who receive it as the gift of a gracious Father, sent for their direction, with a command diligently to read it, with simple earnest prayer for the Holy Spirit's teaching.”

“But is it not written in that sacred volume (for it is useless to urge on you the authority of the Church), that the unlearned and ignorant wrest the things hard to be understood, which that sacred volume contains, to their own destruction? How dangerous then must it be for such men to be allowed the free use of the Bible and their own private judgment, and how wisely does our Church guard us from this fatal error I” Ernest was silent for a minute, then replied, “ You believe that the divine author of Christianity has provided an infallible expounder of Scripture in the interpretations of the Church; Protestants, that He has given His Word equally to all, commanding them to ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth. The unlearned, of whom the Apostle here speaks, are not those unskilled in human learning, but those untaught of God, ignorant of Him and His ways. Too proud to ask for the Spirit's teaching, they trust to the powers of their own intellect to discover truth for themselves, and thus fall into error. If you remember, the Saviour thanked His Father that he had hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes. And St. Paul again, writing to the Corinthians, says, “Ye see your calling, brethren, not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; for God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. The Word of God, our only standard of truth, never speaks of the Church as an infallible guide. The Romish Church may assert it, but the fact of an arrogant assumption is not proof. We must try all by Scripture, for St. Paul, writing to the Galatians, says, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other doctrine (than what is there referred to), let him be accursed.' If a Church be of God it cannot teach contrary to his word, which we assert the Romish Church does.”

" Which you assert, but they deny,” said Hubert.

" True," replied Ernest, suppressing a sigh, “but to prevent their assertion being proved to be false, they conceal that word as much as possible from their people, and when they allow it to be read, deny the right of private judgment to those who read it."

" But do they not do wisely in that denial ? Is it not far more probable that Councils composed of the wise and learned should form a more correct judgment than I, a simple individual ?”

“ Supposing them to have been men of faith and prayer, simply desirous to discover truth and promote God's glory, much value might * be given to their opinions; but the contrary has often been the case. Men, actuated by no motives but to advance their own interests, have combined to enslave the consciences of their fellow-creatures, and to bind them in blind obedience to their commands.”

“ Nay, but you forget how many holy, heavenly characters have adorned our Church. Surely I may trust to their guidance ?”

“ Dear Hubert, answer me one question, Who will answer for your soul at the day of judgment?”

“ The Church (if she misleads me, which is impossible), for she watches for souls as one who must give account.'”

« PreviousContinue »