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FROM AFTER HIS MARRIAGE TILL HIS FIRST DANGEROUS ILLNESS
HIS CONVERSION-HE DESIRES TO ENTER
THE MINISTRY-DIFFICULTIES-HE AT LENGTH SUCCEEDS-HIS
LABOURS THEREIN-HIS LAST SICKNESS, AND VARIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES DURING THAT PERIOD-HIS DEATH.
They little know the hardness of the heart, who suppose deep conviction of sin, and the strong internal struggle of the two natures, to be the effect of mere excitement of the nerves and of the imagination; or who would regard external circumstances (such as religious training, even in that best school, the school of sorrow) as an efficient cause of conversion. Long before the period of his great change, my husband, as you are aware, had tasted of sorrow ; and watched the sick and dying bed of his second brother, Samuel, with tenderness and deeply-felt interest. Some years after he told me, not without tears, of the hardness of his own heart then; and looked back with mourning and astonishment at the state of mind, which led him, whilst watching by Samuel's bedside, to employ his time, unknown to his brother, in reading the lightest books of mere amusement. At a later period, I mean that of his marriage, and the very morning previously to the day which was originally appointed for it, and in the midst of the usual preparations, another awakening circumstance occurred : he received a summons from Tunbridge to attend immediately the death-bed of his brother Benjamin. This event, though fully expected as likely to take place some months later, was very sudden at the last. Of course some little time elapsed before I saw him, but the general tone of his letters was not changed; though a friend told me, that when the corpse rested at Southend for some hours in the progress to town, he refused to see ny one, and was heard to walk up and down his own chamber evidently in a state of extreme excitation. But the gentle voice of the Saviour, the call of his gracious Spirit, was not in this storm.
* With regard to the following chapter it should be stated, that it was originally written by Mrs. Neale as a letter to myself, at the period (Autumn 1832) when it began to appear practicable to form these Memorials and Remains into a Volume, for the use of her own immediate family-circle. This method of relating what she alone could communicate, was suggested, as the best adapted to draw out from the strong-holds of memory facts, and expressions so deeply affecting to the mind. Hence occasionally the appearance of the epistolary form of writing; which it was thought fit not to alter, through fear of changing the character and style of this, by far the most valuable, part of the three memorial sketches.EDITOR.
You know the most unusual kindness and love of truth, which ever shone forth in your departed friend: his promises made previously to our marriage were, certainly, most strictly adhered to. I found family-prayer had been his established
practice; if such a name can be given to such a heartless form, as ours was. My health made all visits to public places, had I been disposed to them, impossible; and my husband's unwearied kindness, his employments at home with his pupils, and attachment to domestic pursuits, prevented him from ever attending a theatre after his marriage, excepting once, at an Oratorio. One, at a time, of his younger nephews was daily sent in to me for a little while to help them forward in minor points of instruction ; but one or two feeble efforts in their uncle's absence to interest them in religious subjects met with his evident dislike. Our Sundays were not, indeed, interrupted by visitors; but when (which was very frequently the case) ill health prevented me from getting to church, my husband used to send the boys there alone, and himself walk to Camberwell; contriving to spend with his sister the hours between the services at her church ; that is, between the morning and evening service; and return home as she went to church in the evening;—thus carefully avoiding as much as possible these means of grace. I mention this the more particularly, on account of his high value and diligent improvement of every moment of the Sundays, at a later period.
As showing his state of mind under these circumstances, I will just name a few of the books read to me. Reid; Stewart; Shakspeare, very often; Milton; large selections from the old dramatists, and from Swift's works, of such pieces as he said were fit for my hearing; Byron, with the same limitation ; Walter Scott's novels,
Southey's Poems, &c. The small portion of time on Sunday passed with me, I heard occasionally a little of Hooker, Ogden's Sermons, Jeremy Taylor, sometimes Bishop Horne; but Leighton, Scott, and Henry, all of whose works I have since heard him read with such delight and admiration, were then never opened.
A Christian minister may perhaps gain some useful hint from viewing the strange inconsistency of character, which one like
your ing an entire knowledge of the Truth, yet struggling against its convictions, exhibited. He always appeared pleased to see me, as was the daily custom, with the Bible in my own room ; and never discouraged my private reading of it, or private prayer. Once, in our sojournings by the sea-side, I remember particularly, on seeing I was going into my chamber, he expressed regret that he had called me to take a short evening walk. In times of more serious illness he regularly read to me the Psalms for the day, though without remark. And, in the beginning of amendment from a dangerous sickness, for a very few days he knelt down in prayer; but it was prayer of that kind which, however reverent in manner, a heathen might have offered ; and, upon a little strength regained, I heard with sorrow that, now I was able to pray for myself, I must not request this again.
The sickness and death of his venerable mother, and his attendance at her dying bed, produced no feelings beyond those of grief. About this period he gave up his pupils; and, in his expenditure of time, talents, money, influence, consulted only his own inclination; which led him to make an idol of our boy, then beginning to emerge from his very infantine age. Scarcely was his will permitted to be crossed ; and nothing was regarded as too great an expense of trouble or money, which in any way contributed to adorn or teach this little idol; for such he was. How unfeignedly such a course was afterwards mourned over I cannot express to you; or how willing and complete the after-resignation of the once, and always, dearlyloved treasure.
In this state of things, and during a long visit to Hastings, I requested him to take me to Dr. Fearon's church. I was not attending for myself, and some things were strongly stated, and gave offence. On our return home he said,
, " I do not like to refuse you any request, but you must never ask me to go to that church again. Go, if you please, yourself; and yet I think you had much better not; at least, you must go without me.” I obeyed the injunction, and we never mentioned the subject. My own mind, however, in the midst of so many pleasant things which surrounded me, and kindness unvaried, began to feel more deeply the awful state in which we were both placing ourselves. I allowed myself to hope he prayed, yet every thing proved the contrary. We removed from Hastings to Eastbourne.
I once ventured to remonstrate about our two little nephews; and mentioned my persuasion that they seldom, if ever, said their prayers, expressing my sorrow; and stating strongly what it would be,