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pointment. She wondered how a man of understanding, and such Mr. Mansfield really was, could be so blind to his own interest and happiness as to shut his eyes against the full conviction of truths which he knew most deeply concerned his everlasting welfare: and rather than break off from the idle and worthless habits of his former life, hazard the fearful risk of being called, unprepared, before that awful tribunal, where a strict account of every man's dealings with God and his fellow creatures will be required. She had several times during his illness proposed reading to him from the sacred volume, but he always excused himself, under the pretence of being too weak to attend; though he often asked her to take up the newspaper, which was daily laid upon the breakfast table, and on account of the peculiar softness of her voice, expressed a high degree of pleasure in hearing her. She resolved however for a time to comply with his request, and forbear to introduce the subject which was nearest to her heart, though fully resolved not to leave him till she had at least made one trial
Mr. Mansfield's health was now so much improved that he was able to walk out, and receive the visits of several gentlemen of the town who called upon him; and his niece feeling that the task was performed which a regard to the memory of her beloved husband had induced her to undertake, greatly wished to return to a home, which, though solitary, was still the object of her warm attachment, on account of the happy and virtuous days and years that she had spent in it, and because she felt that it was there still in her power to contribute to the comfort and improvement of many. Her uncle was very unwilling to part with her; the sweetness and kindness of her manners, and the good sense and unaffected piety which he had now for several weeks had an opportunity of daily observing in her, had greatly endeared her to him; and he earnestly proposed her
spending the autumn with him at Bath, which he thought would be an agreeable change of scene, and an advantage to her health, which was in a delicate state but she declined these kind invitations, and with much reluctance he at length consented that she should leave him the following week.
On Sunday, the day before that of her intended departure, as she was preparing, according to her constant custom, to attend the public worship of God, she was most agreeably surprised by Mr. Mansfield's offering to accompany her, which though she had more than once proposed his doing, he had till this time declined. It was the afternoon service, which they could attend without inconvenience, as, to accommodate her, the dinner was never served till it was over. The minister prayed in so solemn and impressive a manner, that Mr. Mansfield's mind was in a considerable degree affected. The sermon enforced and illustrated the beautiful parable of the talents; the duty of making a vigorous and animated use of those intrusted to us was powerfully enforced by the example of the "good and faithful servants," who for their zeal and activity in the work appointed to them, were exalted to stations of high honour and felicity in the glorious kingdom of the Lord while he who had led a life of slothful indulgence, neither improving himself, nor benefiting his fellow creatures by the abilities which God had bestowed upon him, was "cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Mr. Mansfield paid a deep attention to this affecting discourse, and after his return home his niece thought she saw something in his countenance and manner which seemed to say that it had made a serious impression upon him. Little was said by either during dinner; but when it was removed, and the servants withdrawn, she resolved not to lose this opportunity of endeavouring to awaken him to a sense of his real condition. Her expressive features de
clared her intentions, before her tongue could utter. them, and her uncle, after fixing his eyes for a minute upon her face, thus addressed her:
Mr. Mansfield. I know, my dear niece, you wish to ask me whether I am not affected by the solemn service we have to day been engaged in, and with a sermon, which seemed as if particularly directed to me; and I will own to you that both have reached my heart. During the many years that I spent abroad, I never entered a place of public worship, and since my return home, I have been in the habit of making Sunday a travelling day, a day for writing letters, and in short, a day for any purpose rather than the one for which it is designed and to confess the truth, I have hitherto looked upon public worship as a matter of form rather than real usefulness, thinking that if a man was disposed to pray or read, he might do it at least with equal advantage in his parlour or his closet. But my experience of to day has convinced me of the contrary, and if I was to continue in Shrewsbury, I think I should prove it by my conduct."
Lady. And why only in Shrewsbury? Are there no ministers of Christ but in Shrewsbury?—You told me yesterday that you wished for the power of doing something that would add to my happiness, and really oblige me; and now, dear sir, I will put your sincerity to the proof. Are you disposed to do me a great favour which is completely within your power?
Mr. Mansfield. I am, dear madam. Name your request, and I can almost promise not to refuse it.
Lady. Promise me then, that wherever you are, if your health will permit, you will in future constantly attend public worship on Sundays; and this not merely in the morning, as if in compliance with the customary forms of the world, but twice in the day; that if a favourable impression should be made, it may be again repeated, before the first wears off. I know you too well to doubt, that if you give your
word, you will fully comply with the spirit of my request and I shall look upon such a promise as more than a recompense for all the obligations which you kindly tell me I have laid upon you.
Mr. Mansfield. You are surely a most extraordinary woman, and should have been a fellow labourer with those holy men who in old times were commissioned to convert a sinful world. But I am not worthy of your pious endeavours. Think again, dear madam my indolence is perhaps greater than my avarice, and I would rather supply your benevolence with something considerable for the poor, than undertake thus to fetter myself one day in seven. Come, chuse again.
Lady. Excuse me, sir; you are at full liberty to refuse this my earnest request, but 1 will make no other; and I cannot express the pleasure which your compliance with this would give me.
Mr. Mansfield. Your kindness and your disin terested goodness make you irresistible. You have twice saved my life, and you are now labouring for the salvation of my soul! Well, madam, your request is granted: and in return for this compliance, I have to ask, that you will never enter the house of God without remembering me in your prayers. This will give me some confidence in the efficacy of what you have required from me.
Lady. Then now, and ever, dear sir, you have my most fervent prayers, that you may imbibe a truly Christian spirit, and increase in virtue and in happiness, to the latest period of your earthly pilgrimage, -and when that shall close, may we meet in those celestial regions, where holiness and felicity will be ever increasing, and never fear an end!
Mrs. Mansfield, much affected, rose up, and taking the hand of her uncle, tenderly pressed it to her lips. He was greatly moved, and affectionately embracing her, took from his desk a note of considerable value, earnestly entreating her acceptance of it; but this she
steadily, though thankfully, refused. Give it then amongst your poor neighbours," said he, "if you are resolved to take nothing for yourself, surely you cannot scruple to do that."
Lady. For that purpose I will gratefully receive whatever you are pleased to give, provided you will come and witness the effects of your liberality, and accept the thanks and blessings of those on whom it is bestowed. Come, my dear uncle, come and distribute your own bounty; come and enliven my solitary habitation by a visit of a few weeks in the course of the next summer, and I will do all that is in my power to make it agreeable to you.
Mr. Mansfield. I accept your invitation, my dear madam; but make no expensive or troublesome preparations for my reception. My servants and horses shall be at the village inn, and I will live in your own plain and simple way. Who knows but I may there acquire a taste for that solid happiness which springs from virtue, and unfetter my heart from a gross and selfish world. You said the other day, that I ought not to quit a place where I have so manifestly experienced the mercy of God, in a recovery from a dangerous illness, without leaving some mark of gratitude behind. I will therefore give part of this note between the Infirmary, which I hear is well conducted, and extensively useful, and the school for the instruction of poor children, which I find is a new institution, and may want support.
Lady. A thousand times do I thank you for the pleasure which this generous resolution gives me. Often from my lonely dwelling shall my prayers asend to the throne of mercy, that God would grant you," according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your heart by faith:" being confident that he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
Mr. Mansfield. Enough, enough, my dear niece;