Page images
PDF
EPUB

the fervent piety, the evident sincerity of his departed friend, a ray of hope pierced the thick gloom that bordered on the darkness of despair, though terrible was the conflict of his mind during the next few hours; but before the close of the following day, those feelings were lost in the delirium of fever, caught during his attendance on his friend, and greatly increased by the excitement of his mind. For three weeks Hubert's life hung suspended by a thread; the fever at length subsided, and left him conscious of his danger, and trembling at the prospect of eternity. The ministers of his religion were summoned to his aid; confession of sin was duly made to them; absolution was fully granted; the sacraments, with all their saving efficacy, were not withheld; but still all was darkness and confusion in Hubert's soul: he felt himself a sinner, and vainly sought for peace, for solid peace, where peace could not be found. The priest sought to administer comfort: he reminded him he was a member of the One True Church, spoke of the efficacy of the Keys of the Kingdom entrusted alone to the priests of that Church, reminded him of his prayers, his alms-deeds, his fasts, his penances. But Hubert's conscience was too much awakened to derive comfort from these : he could feelingly adopt the language of Job, “If I wash myself with snow water and make my hands never so clean, yet shall thou plunge me in the ditch and mine own clothes shall abhor me; for He is not a man as I am that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment." And then he remembered Ernest's dying bed, the simple trust he placed in Jesus, the confidence he felt of eternal safety, not from works or deservings of his own, but from the atonement made, the righteousness wrought out by the Saviour. But Hubert could not grasp this consoling truth; there was too much of “wood, hay, and stubble," built on the foundation he had raised, to abide the fiery furnace in which he was placed; but weakened and confused as his reasoning powers then were, he readily yielded obedience to the commands of his Church, and tried to calm his agitated spirit by stronger faith in the saving efficacy of her ordinances. Health and strength were, however, restored to Hubert; nor will it be wondered at, that, on arising from his sick bed, he resolved more strictly than ever to lead a life of greater holiness than he had led before. One visit only of painful harrowing feeling he paid to the grave of his Protestant friend, and there he strove to bury every natural feeling of affection in the all-absorbing one of devotion to the Catholic Faith!

In the course of the delirium that attended Hubert's illness the name of Clara had often been uttered by him, coupled with solemn warnings respecting the Bible she had in her possession, and earnest entreaties that she would resign it to Father Joachim. It will not be matter of surprise that these warnings had been mentioned to the priest who visited Hubert, nor that on the recovery of the latter his spiritual guide felt it his duty to inquire into the meaning of these mysterious sentences. A long conversation ensued, in which Hubert was deeply blamed for his late sinful attachment to Willoughby, and assured that he could not more acceptably atone for his past errors than by rescuing a beloved sister from the deadly heresy which would inevitably ensue, if permitted the indiscriminate use of that word, so fatally dangerous to the young and ignorant, so constantly wrested by them to their own destruction.

Scarcely could Hubert command his trembling hand to write a. letter ere one was addressed to Clara, in which every argument that sophistry could dictate, and every persuasion that affection could induce, were used to prevail on her to resign the book she had received from Pierre, and to confess to Father Joachim the influence it had produced on her mind.

. We regret to add, the letter was not written in vain. Heart-broken at the accounts of her brother's illness, and trembling lest she might be the means of increasing those sufferings she so bitterly lamented, young in years and weak in faith, without a human friend to counsel or advise, she wept, she trembled, she hesitated, her boasted courage failed, she thought she loved her Saviour, she once thought she would die rather than resign his Word; but the hour of trial came, she fled not to the strong for strength, she yielded to the temptation, she hastened to Father Joachim, confessed all, resigned the Testament, implored his pardon, and promised to submit to any penance he commanded. But when Clara first retired to her own room, after resigning the book she had lately learned to prize, she was not happy; she could not pray, for conscience whispered, yes, loudly whispered, she had acted against its dictates, and followed those of affection to an earthly relative, when they stood in opposition to the allegiance she owed a Heavenly Friend. “And must I then," she asked, in bitterness of spirit,—“ must I return to the spiritual darkness from which I so recently have escaped? Can I believe the sweet peace I have lately tasted to have been only delusion, the work of Satan, the malice of an enemy ? Must I again bow before the Virgin, to implore her mercy, when I have felt the privilege of going at once to him who ever liveth to make intercession ? Must I again tremble at the contemplation of the torturing flames of Purgatory, instead of rejoicing in the rest of which my Bible tells me, the rest in Abraham's bosom, to which the soul of the happy Lazarus was carried at once by angels to be present with the Lord ? Ah, what is truth? who shall teach me? What if the Church I have just obeyed be wrong, and I, partially enlightened as I have been, fall with that into hopeless ruin ! Yet,”—and why did Clara listen to-day to what she would have rejected yesterday?-_“yet the Romish Church may be right, and I may have been too self-confident, and acted rashly in disregarding its authority." Do we ask, why? Because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” It suggests-oh, how readily! excuses and palliatives for its own conduct. Clara had stifled conscience when she resigned the Bible, and this excuse, which arose at the moment and was not rejected, was less painful then to her mind than the thought she had acted against a clearer light, and obeyed a Church opposed to the commands of God.

Nothing but a supernatural power can effect the conversion of a soul. The Gospel of Christ allows of no compromise, offers no conditions acceptable to the natural heart; on the contrary, it requires violence to be done to every feeling that stands in opposition to its

commands. “If any man,” says the Saviour, “ will come after me, and hate not his father and mother, yea, and his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” And surely it is most just and reasonable that such a requirement be made. What friend, however great, lovely, or beloved, has done for us what our Lord and Saviour has deigned to do? And does he require too much, when he claims the first place in our heart, our obedience, our loyalty, our devotedness? Clara, perhaps, was not aware how much she was influenced by the dread of her friends' opposition; how difficult it was to break through the ties of strong affection, which bound her to her brother; and how she had failed in simply desiring to fulfil the will of God when she yielded to Hubert's entreaties; but she had yielded, and the path of return to darkness was easy to tread, and swiftly trod. Caressed by her friends, occupied once more in the busy scenes of youth, she soon remembered those strong feelings but as a dream that was past; and one acquainted with her history during the few months that succeeded her parting with the Bible would have classed her among the number of those who have no root, who endure for a season and in the hour of temptation fall away. The time was, however, yet to come when the good seed, if choked for awhile, should spring up and yield an abundant harvest.

(To be continued.)

MY DREAM!-AN ALLEGORY. An inhabitant of a vast and populous city, I had received many pressing invitations from a friend residing in a very remote county ; which, however, upon some frivolous pretext or other, I had as constantly declined. Being rather of an indolent temperament, I disliked even the contemplation of a long and toilsome journey, which it was necessary to take, ere I could hope to arrive at the mansion of my friend. At length, something like a feeling of compunction for such ungracious returns to his repeated proffers of friendship and service, combined with the consciousness that the regard he still expressed for me was wholly unmerited on my part, while it mantled my cheek with the blush of shame at such manifest ingratitude, determined me no longer to delay complying with his request. I resolved immediately to avail myself of his hospitality; and, addressing myself to my journey, with the first peep of dawn, had soon left the city and its slumbering inhabitants far behind me. It was a lovely morning early in April ; the lark, attuning his matin orisons as he mounted aloft, seemed to invite the rest of the feathered choristers to share his joyous song. The soft balmy breath of spring, as it fanned my cheek, was redolent with perfume, while the dew-drops that gemmed the newly awakened earth glittered in the sunbeams like so many diamonds. The sky was of the brightest blue, save here and there a few light fleecy clouds of various form and size, which were sometimes driven to and fro by the sportive breeze, at others congregated together, till their weight caused them to descend in gentle refreshing showers. ;

I trod the green sward with a light heart and elastic step, oft loitering on my way, either to chase the gay butterflies that con

stantly eluded my grasp, or to pluck some flower that pleased my fancy; which, almost as soon as gathered, drooped, withered, and died; or else, being armed with thorns, upon attempting to seize and place them in my bosom, they wounded me severely. But I was now to quit the smooth enamelled turf, and traverse many a rough, intricate, and perplexing path; then bleak commons, whose sole vegetation consisted of the flowering thistle, brambles, and thorn-bushes, through which I made my way as best I might. Fain would I have yielded to the temptation held out to me, by smoother and more inviting paths, apparently tending to the same point as the route I had been directed to pursue ; but I had heard from unquestionable authority that the woods and thickets abutting upon these green and shady lanes were infested by various beasts of prey. The danger, therefore, that would be incurred by a deviation from the track previously indicated acted as a counterpoise to the strong desire I naturally felt, to luxuriate amid the cool green herbage, instead of toiling over the hot, sandy, uninteresting plains which frequently lay in juxta-position with these, it must be confessed, most alluring paths. On then I went, repelling the calls of hunger by plucking the wild fruits and berries from the hedges by the way-side, though in so doing my hands were sadly scratched and torn by the briars among which they grew.' At length I reached the sea-shore, when perceiving a crystal spring at no great distance issuing out of a rock, I gladly hastened towards it to quench my thirst, which was now become intolerable. Wearied and foot-sore, the sun too in his zenith beating with fervor upon my head, increased the lassitude I experienced, so that I looked eagerly around for shelter and a resting place, both of which the same friendly rock afforded me. I entered a cave therein, and seating myself upon a rude couch formed by a projecting piece of stone, watched the breakers dashing upon the shingly shore; upon which each approaching wave deposited portions of sea-weed, coloured pebbles, and shells, whose exquisite forms and delicately varied tints excited my ardent admiration ; but brief was their stay ! each retiring wave carried them away, and flung them back into the ocean.

Meanwhile the gentle murmuring of the receding waves, and the dashing of their successors upon the shingles, had such a lulling effect upon my senses, that, from a sort of dreamy thoughtfulness, I became gradually unconscious of all around, and sleep surprised me. At first I was sensible of nothing, but after a time, beheld this same ocean covered with an impenetrable mist, nothing was to be seen, save one bright star in the horizon. I watched this brilliant planet, which every moment seemed to increase in size and splendour, till at length a train of light shot from it, and reached as far as the spot where I was seated; wondering at this unusual appearance, imagine how my astonishment was augmented, upon perceiving an ethereal form glide with inconceivable swiftness down the train of light and place itself at my side !—Though awe-struck, I was yet allured by the benignity of his countenance and emboldened to address him.-"Bright inhabitant of yon fair star,” said I, “ why am I, a child of clay! honoured by such a visitant ? On what errand dost thou quit thy blissful home?" He motioned me to silence, and raising the staff upon which he leant, pointed in the direction of the ocean: presently I heard a murmuring sound as of bees, which grew louder and louder, while at the same time the mist began to roll itself up as it were, like a scroll, as far as I could see; and assumed the appearance of a dark stagnant river. In the place of the sea, I beheld a vast wilderness thronged with people; this had caused the sound that struck upon my ear, and which at first I had mistaken for the hum of bees. I gazed around, some parts of this wilderness consisted of arid plains, others of tangled thickets impervious to the sun's rays, others of rocky ground full of deep ravines, while here and there a small but fertile spot was discoverable, with turf green as an emerald, walks tastefully cut, and well gravelled, intersecting parterres filled with flowers of surpassing loveliness, and whose fragrance exceeded anything I ever remembered. I beheld trees studded with blossoms, others bending beneath the load of fruits arrived at maturity, luscious to the taste as beautiful and tempting to the sight. These cases were but thinly scattered over this vast domain, and the eye delighted to rest upon them after the contemplation of so much sterility. But it was now time to survey the motley assemblage before me; I observed they were divided into two distinct classes, which had each its respective chief; the disproportion as to numbers was immense, and filled me with amazement. The majority acknowledged as their sovereign a man of gigantic stature, whose apparently faultless features a perpetual smile irradiated, which seemed to allure, and retain in his allegiance, the innumerable multitudes that flocked from every quarter to do him homage; his diadem as also his throne were resplendent with gems of untold value, most gorgeous, nay, dazzling his apparel, crowds of courtiers on bended knee awaited his commands, or flew to execute his slightest behest. I was not a little surprised to see a fetter upon the right arm, and another upon the right leg, of every man ! while each woman wore a massy chain around her neck; it is true they appeared to be of gold, but the weight must have been irksome, since their gait was awkward, constrained, and every way ungraceful; yet they appeared totally unconscious of sustaining any inconvenience, or if they chanced at all to observe these badges of servitude, contemplated them with visible satisfaction because apparently of gold. None seemed stationary, all were coming and going, with the velocity observable in a dream. I noticed that some had charts in their hands, others books, writing materials, and various implements; whilst among these groups strutted two fantastically attired personages--one with wings at his heels, a caduceus in his hand, and a peacock's feather in his cap—the other, his inseparable companion, was decked in a suit of colours varied as the rainbow, with a brazen trumpet, which ever and anon he applied to his mouth, though the blast that thence issued reminded me forcibly of the note of an animal not held in much repute for wisdom. Others I perceived were wholly engrossed with toys of various sorts, such as dolls, pictures, beads, and some strange misshapen things; to what use applied I was at a loss to discover, till I found they, as well as certain cabalistic scrolls, were held in such high estimation that, unless my sight deceived me, acts of worship were actually performed to them ; though, however engaged, no one person ever omitted rendering

« PreviousContinue »