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a low tone of voice, “ There is one who does not overlook your good works in thus ministering unto the saints."
“ Poor Frances is more fit to be ministered unto than to minister this morning,” observed Clarice. “Is it really requisite that my sister should thus injure her health and distress her friends, by performing offices, the meanest menial could better discharge ?”
“I do not say it is absolutely requisite, but I do say the reward of such meritorious self-denial will be great."
“Is the reward to be given, Father," inquired Clara, “because we have deserved it, and will it be great in proportion to the number of self-imposed penances and mortifications ?”
“ Doubtless, daughter, good works will merit heaven, and they who afflict the body to atone for and subdue the sins of the soul shall have their reward.”
“But how can we atone for or subdue our sins by afflicting our bodies ? Is not this a part of that false system which leads the poor Heathen to torture themselves to propitiate their offended deities? We pity and blame them as deluded and ignorant creatures, yet are we not guilty of a similar error, when we believe God is pleased with those who lacerate and emaciate their bodies, wear sharp crosses next their hearts, crawl over stones until their flesh be bare, and then call this an offering acceptable and well-pleasing to God ?"
Father Adrian looked angry, but with unmoved gentleness added, “ There is utterly a fallacy, and a most dangerous one, in the conclusions you have drawn ; our Church nowhere teaches that God delights in the sufferings of his creatures, but he wills his saints to be holy, they also will the same, and use these means to accomplish the desired end, they inortify their bodies to subdue their sins, and to atone for their failings submit to the penances commanded by the Church and approved of by God.”
“ But," dear father, said Clara, now completely thrown off her guard, “has not Jesus fully atoned for sin, and when on the cross he exclaimed, “It is finished,' was not satisfaction made, and God completely reconciled, through the merits of his suffering ?—yet, if we are again to offer atonement for our offences, how can we be said to be healed by his stripes ? "
“ Your questions, my daughter, will lead us into conversation scarce fit to be thus publicly held. I fear you are unconsciously reasoning on subjects too deep for you to fathom, instead of humbly submitting to the authority and teaching of the Church.”
Clara blushed, and remained silent, with difficulty suppressing the inquiry that burnt for utterance, “ Can it be a question too deep for me to fathom, how my sinful immortal soul shall be justified before a holy God ? "
“Surely, Clara," interrupted Clarice playfully, “you have not profited as you should have done by the instructions of Father Joachim, or you would not now require to learn truths that we favoured children have been taught from our cradles.”
“What truths, daughter ?" said the father, somewhat sternly.
“ Never to presume to think for ourselves, and implicitly to believe all we are taught by our infallible teachers, truths which I have learned so well, that I cannot think how any one who has freedom of
choice cau exist beyond the walls of a nunnery, or ever taste peace, unless, like dear Frances, they are perforining some saintly action."
“ Your levity,” observed the father, very justly, “is ill-timed, and will, I fear, if not checked, lead to greater evils than you are willing to believe."
“I did not mean to offend ; you all well know how truly devoted I am to dear mother Church, only I would give half my fortune to those who would repeat masses and kneel on the cold stones for me, rather than perform these penances myself.”
“Madam," said the priest, turning to Mrs. Cleves, “may I request you to aid my endeavours to end a conversation, the style of which is so little suitable to the solemn subject on which we are discoursing ?”
Mrs. Cleves seriously reproved her daughter, and Clarice again protested her sorrow at offending, observing, her spirits always led her to say what she afterwards repented of; thus the party separated for the present, and Clarice was again pardoned and restored to favour.
We must now use the author's privilege, and pass by in silence the next six weeks, during which nothing happened worthy of the reader's attention. Hubert had now extended his visit to its utmost limit, and the time fixed on for him to depart on a tour through Italy had arrived. Clara was to remain some weeks longer with her aunt and cousins. Since the day, on which the conversation respecting Ernest Willoughby had taken place, a kind of reserve on the sentiments each person entertained had been felt by the cousins. Clarice had refrained from ridicule, Clara from observations of any kind. Frances had been even more earnest in the discharge of her ceremonial routine, and more sedulously shunned the society of her cousins. Clara and Clarice again appeared to live only for amusement. Hubert passed the greater part of the day in studying divines of the Romish Church, selected for, and perused with him by Father Adrian ; divines, who had laboured hard and succeeded well, to “make the worse appear the better reasoning." Entangled in the mazes of their sophistical arguments, Hubert departed further from the simplicity of the Gospel, — further from the faith, to the knowledge of which his lamented friend had so longed and laboured to bring him,—from that peace which he was indeed sincerely, though ignorantly, seeking.
A letter which, about this time, Hubert addressed to his father, filled the latter with much anxiety, as his son expressed himself utterly dissatisfied with a military life, and most anxious, could he be released from other engagements, to undertake the sacred office of the priesthood. He entreated his father attentively to consider his wishes, and not to give a decisive reply till he returned from Italy.
Clara, who knew nothing of this letter, saw her brother depart from Ardennes, with mingled emotions of pleasure and pain. Yet, why did she feel pleasure ? She could scarcely define her feelings, but she always sighed when she heard he was closeted with Father Adrian. She sighed, and rushed to seek a temporary oblivion of her fears and sorrows, amidst the scenes of dissipation to which she was led by her aunt and Clarice. But seasons of reflection would occur, and it was in one of these seasons, when Clara was walking in a retired part of the garden, feeling sad and perplexed, recalling all that had occurred since her meeting with Pierre, at times grieving she had resigned her Testament, and then justifying herself for so doing,—that she was joined by Clarice, who entering into conversation with her, directed her steps to a rustic arbour, at some distance from the house. Before seating herself, Clarice walked carefully round to feel satisfied they were unobserved, then kindly taking her cousin's hand, and speaking with some embarrassment, she thus introduced her subject.
“I know not, dear Clara, if good or evil will be the result of this interview, but, were it not that you have promised to confess on the morrow, I would make you the confidant of feelings I dare not mention to my only sister, who believes it to be her duty to reveal each thought and feeling to Father Adrian. But, surely, my cousin, you can promise me secresy ?"
“Can it be right for you and me to conceal, what it is the duty of Frances to confess ? ” replied Clara with hesitation.
" Certainly not. But Frances may have formed an erroneous estimate of duty, as you once said, We may be wrong, and Ernest Willoughby might have been right.”
A silence of some moments followed these words, during which the cousins read each other's feelings.
“We may be wrong,” said Clara, “but how shall we discover this, who will teach us? Once I thought God would teach. Once I hoped he had taught me, but I am bewildered now, and know not whom to trust.”
“ And, therefore, you intend to trust Father Adrian, and meet him to-morrow to confess your fears and receive instruction from him ; he will tell you how happy we Catholics are in having an infallible Church to direct us; ask him how he knows that Church to be infallible, and what part of God's Word declares it to be so ? Ask him, what part of that Word commands the Scriptures to be taken from the people, and ask him also, how that infallible Church will answer at the last great day for the blood it has shed of the saints and martyrs of the Lord Jesus ? ”
“Clarice, dear Clarice, you amaze me! Have you ever read the Bible?”
“ You forget, Clara, you attend confession, and I am not safe, unless you promise secresy."
“I dare promise nothing at present, but if Father Adrian cannot satisfy my doubts
“If he cannot;—he will, his tongue drops manna, and can make the worse appear the better reasoning. Yet, I believe, he is himself deceived ; misled, rather than meaning to mislead; perhaps his punishment will be less severe than mine. I know the truth, but have not courage to follow it."
“ What can you mean?” inquired Clara.
“ That I no more believe the Church of Rome to be the one true Church, than I mean to come out of her at the risk of persecution, perhaps even of death; though at times I tremble lest I should be a partaker of her plagues. · But I have said too much, far too much, from dreading the fetters in which to-morrow's interview may more deeply bind you."
“If I believed Protestants to be right, I would join them to-morrow.”
“Though your father disowned, and your brother reproached you?”
Clara's heart smote her as she remembered she had parted with her Testament from love to Hubert.
“You may tell me, Clara, since I do not feel it my duty to confess, whether you have ever read the Bible.”
“ I have, but parted with it at Hubert's request."
“ Yet you would blame me for concealing mine, lest I should pain my mother.”
“ Concealing yours! Oh, Clara! have you indeed a Bible ? Surely God must have sent me here."
Clara burst into tears, and her cousin affectionately observed
“I have gone too far to recede, and I feel sure you will not betray me. Yes, I have a Bible, yet I seldom read it, because it condemns me for neglecting what I feel to be its demands."
“ Shall we study it together, Clarice, and pray God to direct us to a right understanding? Yet, what if we should be among the number of the unstable, who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction."
« Nay, fear not. Think you a Father would give bread to his children, and when they eat of what He has provided, would He convert the bread into poison ? No, I fear not this! My danger arises from want of moral courage to act up to the convictions of my conscience."
Clarice then informed Clara how she had obtained the Bible, observing, that before she had ever seen it, many things had occurred which led her to question the infallibility of the Romish Church; she could not mention all the circumstances, which, like links in a chain, had had an imperceptible and gradual effect on her mind. The most important she would, however, relate. It was two years since (long before Father Adrian came to reside with us; the priest we then had was of a very different character; worldly-minded, ignorant, fond of the good things of this life, he kept the poor people in ignorance of the grossest kind), when on a lovely morning in the month of May, I bent my steps towards the cottage belonging to the faithful nurse of my infant days, after being absent several weeks from our village. When I reached her humble, though picturesque dwelling, I was struck with the silence that reigned around. She was not, as usual, in her garden, either tending her bees, or tying up her flowers ; neither were her husband's spade and hoe to be seen on the plot of ground he so loved to cultivate. I opened the wicker gate and knocked at the door-no voice replied. I softly entered, but started when I saw the pale face of the poor woman, rendered still more sad from being shrouded in widow's weeds. Her tale of sorrow was quickly told: her husband had been snatched away by sudden illness, but her bitterest grief arose from the remembrance that he had died without receiving the last sacraments, and on this account the awful fames of purgatory were torturing his hapless soul with tenfold fury.
“Alas !” said the poor creature, in a tone of despairing anguish, “ Were I rich he should not suffer thus ; his Reverence tells me masses will release him from these torments, but for these masses
they require a sum far beyond my power to raise. I have given all I can—have sold my furniture, gone without my food, and would it avail, would shed my blood to raise the sum that should release his soul.” Clara, I cannot describe the startling force with which this question arose in my mind—Is this religion? Can it be possible that if a priest believe he has power with God to release a soul from purgatory, he can yet leave that soul to suffer tortures, and offer no prayers for its release, till he wring from the surviving relatives a sum of paltry gold and silver, as the price of admittance to the joys of heaven? The thought was revolting ; the impression then made on my mind was abiding. I set the poor woman at rest by sending her all I had then to bestow, and saw her a few days after, eased of her heaviest load, assured that her husband would speedily be released from purgatory, in consequence of the gold I had given her. Clara, I had never seen the Bible then ; but when I afterwards met with these prophetic words in its sacred pages, “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you,” I saw the prophecy fulfilled in the priest of our village. Though I had never read the Bible then, my mind recoiled from the doctrine of buying souls out of purgatory. I had naturally a keen sense of the ridiculous, and felt an utter contempt for the childish legends so religiously inculcated as a matter of faith among the more credulous part of our community. The absurd tales contained in the lives of the saints tended also to nurture this feeling in my mind, which would have led to an indifference to religion bordering on infidelity, had I not remembered the Protestants I had seen in England professed a purer faith. One other incident alone I shall mention, which filled me with further suspicions of the infallibility of the Romish Church. A few weeks after the narrative of my poor nurse, some little bustle was excited in our village by the arrival of a young and beautiful widow with a lovely girl, five years of age.
A shade of mystery hung around the new arrival which our village gossips vainly longed to penetrate. The lady had evidently at her command all the luxuries that wealth could purchase, but the deep dejection of her sorrowful countenance, and the shattered state of her health, too plainly foretold that an early death and the silent grave were the portion that awaited her. We soon became acquainted with this lady, whose name was Granville; she sought rather than declined our friendship, hoping (as she told me when time had deepened our acquaintance into a warm and tender attachment) that we should prove friends to her only treasure when left a timid orphan in a cold-hearted world. Meanwhile, the mother rapidly declined, and as her body grew weaker, and death grew nearer, her dread of eternity increased. I know not much of her past history; her husband had been an officer in the army; he had embraced Infidel principles, and reasoned her into the same; but as death approached, the remembrance of her former careless contempt filled her with terror; she entreated me to send for the priest, that he might console her anxious mind. Ah, Clara! had I known, or knowing had I faithfully applied the Bible truth of pardon for all sin from Him against whom it has been committed, she had found a cordial which, alas! was denied her; but I knew not. Our priest was sent for; he often visited her, and I found her, from the