Page images
PDF
EPUB

never so severe.

The saint then caused a succession of scenes to pass before the eyes of the abbess, the meaning of which she could not unravel, but had orders to relate all she beheld to Frances, heiress of Cleves. She first beheld a young and beautiful female seated near a pile of gold; by her side stood an aged man, tall and of a venerable countenance, he laid his withered hand on the glittering heap and claimed it and her for an only son.

“ Another form then appeared, horrible to gaze on, of a fearful mien, on his forehead was written heresy, a book was in his hand, this book he offered to a young girl who eagerly seized it and placed it in her bosom, after which she was seen rushing with hasty steps along a dangerous road, at the end of which was a yawning gulf and a fiery precipice, but when she had reached the brink, and seemed about to be precipitated below, the same female form appeared, and snatched her from the impending ruin. The abbess adds the next scenes were most obscure; a carriage was seen rapidly rolling through a forest, till it stopped at a venerable monastery. Again the scene changed, and the same female was seen in a beautiful nunnery which arose on the spot where the pile of gold had formerly been; from her lips proceeded wisdom ; her superior mind guided the whole establishment. Nuns and priests passed in rapid succession in this moving scene. Ravishing music fell on the ear, and Frances, heiress of Cleves, was pronounced most blest by voices of more than mortal sweetness.”

“ And does Frances,” inquired Clara, when her cousin ceased speaking, “really believe all this has been seen by the abbess ?”

“Why should she doubt it ? Has she not been accustomed from childhood to believe in the reality of these extravagant visions ? The lives of the saints, as she justly observed, abound with revelations more extraordinary in their character, and in Bede's “ Church History" you will meet with similar visions vouchsafed to Saint Hilda and other holy men and women ; it has long been her earnest ambition to imitate their holiness and to be similarly rewarded.”

“ Poor thing,” said Clara, “I pity her delusions, but what has this letter in it that concerns me?

“ What ! Clara, have you also taken farewell of your senses, or do you affect an ignorance and indifference you cannot feel ? Are not you the young girl who received the book from the heretic Pierre ? though how Frances will proceed in her efforts to pluck you from ruin is more than I can imagine; one thing, however, is plain, there is a regular system of communication maintained between these priests and abbesses, in which all the family secrets obtained at the confessional are revealed ; and though I smile at times at this absurd letter, yet I tremble at the misery you may be exposed to if you refuse to give up the Bible, which now from my heart I wish I had never given you.'

“ I do not wish it, Clarice, from the innermost recesses of my heart; I thank God you did, and I humbly pray He may grant me grace never to resign it; yes, I pray that I may be found among the number of the blessed ones who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. But as far as this foolish letter concerns me, I feel no anxiety; Frances has it not in her power, even were she so disposed, to harm me; she may attempt my

conversion by arguments, persuasions, or reproaches, beyond these what power can she have over me? No, it is the anger of my father, the grief of my brother that I dread, these will form the bitter ingredients in the cup I am called on to drink.”

“I feel for you, dear Clara, but forgive me if I say I feel still more concern for Frances. Father Adrian will never rest till he obtains her fortune and makes her a nun, and then it will matter little to him if she bewails through years of lingering wretchedness, the false enthusiasm that led her to take vows she bitterly and fruitlessly repents of. O Clara, a dark cloud overcasts my sky, and veils the sunny prospects I had formed for the future!”

" The future, dear Clarice, is veiled in mercy both from you and me; but how inexpressibly sweet at this moment is the conviction that it will be directed by my heavenly Father, who has, I trust, pardoned my past unfaithfulness, and will strengthen me for future trials. Oh, my cousin, do not choose evil when you know the good-do not remain in darkness, believing it to be such—cast in your lot with me, make God your friend--His favour will repay the loss of all earthly comforts

-you will then taste peace, whose calm repose shall form a striking contrast to the ceaseless reproaches of a stifled conscience, or the still more fatal lethargy of one whose voice is silent, indeed, but only because it is seared as with a hot iron.”

Clarice shook her head mournfully. “I cannot, Clara, I will watch over you and dear Frances with unceasing vigilance, but I dare not avow my principles, I dread to rouse the anger of a Jesuit priest, the anathemas of the Romish Church."

“ What do you suppose to have been Frances's motive in showing you the letter ?

“ She gave me first of all the strictest charge (which love for you has led me to break) not to make you acquainted with its contents. I believe her motive was to do me good, and impress my mind with a solemn belief in this wonderful vision, which I dared not tell her is a concerted scheme between the abbess and Father Adrian, to work on her lively and exciteable imagination, and make her an easier tool for the accomplishment of their anıbitious ends."

“ But what can we think of those who would concert such plans ? they must be only fit ministers of the father of lies. I cannot believe that Father Adrian, though he may be in error, can lend his sanction to such a system of iniquitous falsehood.”

“ You may know more of the Bible, Clara, but you know less of the doctrines of our Church than I do, if you do not know that the end sanctifies the means, and you will find the theory of pious frauds laid down in many of our devotional books; this is only theory practically developed, but I leave you to think over the contents of this letter, and be very cautious. I wish not to be seen much alone with you. Frances closely watches, and, I fear, suspects us both."

The longer Clara reflected over the vision revealed to Frances, the more inclined she felt to despise it as an absurd fiction, and altogether to reject the thought of its having any effect on her future prospects. Three weeks passed without any further notice being taken by Father Adrian of Clara or her sentiments; during this time Frances behaved with uniform kindness, and so far won the affection of her unsuspecting, cousin, that she often wondered why she had ever regarded her as cold-hearted and unfeeling. At the expiration of this time Father Adrian again renewed his attacks, and in several lengthened conversations endeavoured to persuade Clara to submit to the authority of the Church, and give up the Bible. Clara, however, firmly refused, remarking at their last interview, that since she was only a visitor at Ardennes, and not one of Father Adrian's flock, he had surely dis-, charged his duty in thus frequently warning her; the priest turned solemnly from her, saying, “ Your blood be on your own head. I am clear ; your ruin (which I have done all I can to prevent) rests with yourself." These words, which he spoke with considerable agitation, affected Clara more than anything that had yet passed.

But where is our hero? If our readers will patiently follow us, we will now leave Clara, and accompany him on his tour through Italy. The death of his friend Willoughby, and his own subsequent illness, had cast a gloom around Hubert's mind, not easily dispelled ; 'nor was this gloom lessened by the assurance of his confessor, that mercy could not be extended to an incorrigible heretic, who had obstinately persisted in rejecting the truth when offered to him. Hubert had now long and anxiously studied the doctrines of his Church; he had done all he could to obtain peace of mind, but still he was not happy. To merit the favour of his Maker was the motive that led him to perform every good work, he had read the most spiritual divines of the Romish Church, yet none of these clearly pointed to the only day-star that. could cheer the sinner's trembling heart,—they pointed not to the Son of God alone as having wrought out for His people by obedience to the law for them, a righteousness so perfect that it satisfied the demands of infinite justice,—they did not teach that fallen man was too weak and sinful even to attain to the standard of obedience God required, nay, they even ventured to assert he might go beyond it, and being more holy, and performing more good works than was needful for his own salvation, his merits might be imputed to others less devoted,

The pure standard of obedience contained in God's word, Hubert knew but in part, yet he knew enough (and his conscience aided him here) to convince him that he had never kept the whole law, and had even often fallen short of his best intentions. To atone for these omissions, he fasted, he gave alms, performed acts of penance, but these acts brought no peace to his conscience, they did not enable him to render obedience to the first and great command, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." No, and he felt this to be the case, for Hubert was sincere in his error, sincere in seeking after truth, with a simple determination to do the will of his Heavenly Father.

Often would he stand and gaze on the clear sky, when the moon shone in placid loveliness on a cloudless night, and the stars bespangled the firmament, and he would feel that the heavens declared the glory of God, and his heart would glow with momentary devotion, but when from these soothing contemplations he turned his thoughts to earth, to man, to himself; when he remembered he had offended his Maker, a holy being who hated sin with perfect hatred; when he thought of the

fires of purgatorý, through which the soul must be purified from the sinful dross of earth ; when he remembered that he must only approach that Holy Being through the mediation and intercession of saints and angels, a feeling of awe, almost of alienation, would drive away the sweet approach of love; again he would fast, give alms, do penance, and if conscience was thus satisfied for a time, it was with a false peace, unlike the scriptural confidence of those who, being justified through faith, have peace with God. .

So long as opinions are held merely as speculative, influencing only the head and not at all affecting the heart, it matters comparatively little, as far as the salvation of the individual be concerned, whether he be a Romanist or a Protestant; but if once aroused from his former state of indifference and false security, aware of his danger, he anxiously seeks for an answer to that momentous, all-important question, “ What must I do to be saved ?" then it is that the Bible and the Romish Church give very different answers, propose very different remedies to effect the cure of an awakened conscience. To this question the Romish Church replies :-“Do penance, fast, give alms, confess your sins to the priest who alone can absolve you from their guilt, receive and believe in the saving efficacy of the last sacraments administered by the ministers of the one true Church, obediently submit to their spiritual authority, commit your departing soul into the hand of our gracious lady, leave money to pay for the masses necessary for the repose of your soul; this do, and thou shalt be saved."

is What shall I do to be saved ?” The Bible and the Protestant Church reply :- Believe. Do nothing to merit salvation, it is impossible. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Believe with the heart that standing in your place He bore the punishment due to your sins, that by his perfect obedience He magnified and made honourable a law which you have broken, and thus His merits (not the merits of those who have not enough to justify themselves) shall be imputed to you for righteousness. Then, having found peace with God through faith in Jesus, do those good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. Bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Do it from love to him who has freely pardoned you ; do it to prove that much has been forgiven, therefore you love much. This is the reply. given by the Bible; this is the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, good tidings of great joy to the sin-sick soul. Yes, this is the Gospel which the devil hates, because it deprives him of his usurped dominion over the hearts of man, and therefore hating it he strives to obscure its light, to lessen its freeness, to pervert its meaning ; but what peace can the really awakened siuner find by trusting to works and doings of his own ? No, in the expressive words of inspiration, “ The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” Hubert had felt this truth with bitter force on his bed of sickness, in the near prospect of eternity, and therefore he determined to heap on his sandy foundation of good works more of those mighty nothings, which could not stand when the rain and Hoods should beat Vol. IX.- September, 1847. U

New Series, No. 21.

upon it. Thus he resolved to renounce the world and all its innocent friendships, and if he could obtain the consent of his father, to take on himself the solemn vows of ordination, that thus he might spend the whole of his time in preparing himself and others to merit the glories of heaven.

For many months past he had suffered painful and incessant conflict in his own mind, from a growing feeling of compassion towards those who differed from him in religion, and the fear that towards those, compassion was a criminal weakness, condemned by the Church, and unworthy of one devoted to her interests. Father Adrian had often assured him that his friendship with Ernest Willoughby had been a snare laid to entrap his feet, and cautioned him to avoid forming similar ones in future, and Hubert resolved, firmly resolved, to follow his advice; yet the more he studied the doctrines of the Romish Church, as respected the treatment of heretics, the more his mind revolted from it as equally opposed to reason, humanity, and religion. Yet Hubert argued he must be wrong in these feelings, and often strove, though unsuccessfully, to subdue them. During his tour through Italy, he intended to maintain a regular correspondence with Father Adrian, for whom he felt great esteem. Hubert, who had a mind at once refined and cultivated, could not fail to derive much pleasure from travelling in a country which abounds with the most lovely and soothing scenerybut where, alas, the beauties of nature form a sad contrast to the dark and fearful passions that rage in the breasts of its inhabitants.

(To be continued.)

A REVIEW OF MARTIN LUTHER'S VIEWS COMPARED WITH

THE ROMANISTS', ON CLOISTER VOWS, CELIBACY, POVERTY, AND OBEDIENCE TO THE RULE OF THEIR ORDER, AND

DISPENSATIONS. ARRANGED BY REV. C. SMYTH, B.A., OXON., FROM HIS “GERMAN TREATISES,"

1847. " Those who allege," says D'Aubigné on the Reformation of the sixteenth century, “ that it was brought about by offering the possessions of the religious orders to the princes, marriage to the priests, and liberty to the people, strangely misapprehend its nature. No doubt, a useful employment of funds which, up to that time, had nourished the monks in laziness; no doubt, marriage and liberty, both of which come from God, might promote the spread of the Reformation; but the moving force did not lie there. In fact, everywhere throughout Germany, monks were to be found putting off their frocks and hoods at the gates of their monastery...... the greater number felt convinced that the monastic life was opposed to the will of God, and to the Christian life.”

LUTHER'S REPLY TO THE ARCHDUKE GEORGE. The Reformer was charged by the Prince with having faithlessly renounced his vow, and turning apostate. For Duke George's un

« PreviousContinue »