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As the gospel was but little known in that part of the country, they considered it a peculiar privilege that, through the introduction of Mr. Somerville, they enjoyed the friendship of an elderly clergyman and his wife, whose distinguished piety, and Christian kindness, made their society and counsels invaluable.
Mr. Morton, who was rector of a neighboring parish, was a man venerable for his years and experience, respected for his uprightness and consistency, and beloved for his active Christian benevolence. There was a patriarchal simplicity in his manners, which peculiarly fitted him for the office he filled; and while the uncompromising faithfulness of his ministerial character pointed him out as the firm defender of evangelical truth, the kindness of his heart, and the assiduity with which, in imitation of his divine Master, "he went about doing good," proved him the sympathizing and affectionate father of his flock.
Mrs. Morton was, without exception, the most charming woman the cousins had ever seen. She was about fifty, remarkably pleasing in person, and affable in address. Her manners were elegant, yet perfectly unstudied; her countenance expressive of every benevolent feeling; and there was a nameless charm in everything she did-an inexpressible something, so sweet, so captivating, that no heart endowed with sensibility could resist its powerful attraction. It was the unaffected simplicity and candor, the warm and spontaneous kindness, of a heart overflowing with Christian love, that shed a holy benignity over her every word and action, and made her the object of enthusiastic affection, to all those who were privileged to call themselves her friends.
Emily and Caroline had now been some months at home, when they were suddenly informed that it was their parents' intention to send them for a year or two to a French boarding-school, for the purpose of completing their education in the language of that country. This, although the ostensible, was not the only reason that prompted this determination. This strange adoption of fanatical opinions, as the change in their religious principles was called, had been a source of much vexation to their respective families, and had disappointed many a long-cherished expectation; and it was hoped that an introduction to different scenes and pursuits, a removal from serious friends and associations, and, above all, an immersion in the gaieties of French society, would be successful in eradicating those impressions which every effort had hitherto failed to overcome; besides imparting that artificial polish to their manners, which the frequent intercourse with France had now rendered so fashionable.
Little did these short-sighted parents consider, or reflect on, the dangers to which they were thus exposing their children; they never once thought either of the religion or irreligion of the place to which they were about to send them. But not so Mr. and Mrs.
Morton. They saw the necessity of endeavoring to counteract the evil, and advised their young friends to request that they might be permitted to choose a school in the town of Swhere they knew that an English place of worship existed, and the unspeakable advantages of a gospel ministry, and a small circle of serious Christians, might be enjoyed. Emily and Caroline thankfully accepted the suggestion, and, after some difficulty, suc ceeded in obtaining their request.
They were on their road to Clifden parsonage, to visit these excellent friends for the last time before they left England, and once more listen to the blessed acccents of Christian friendship and advice, when Mr. Somerville's letter arrived, with the important counsels they had requested. It furnished them with most interesting subjects of conversation, till the modest spire of Clifden church emerged to their view, from its surrounding screen of ancient and lofty trees.
A group of cottages and farm-houses, remarkable for their neatness, and their appearance of rustic comfort, encompassed this venerable edifice. It was of antique, and extremely plain architecture, and its walls were darkened by the hand of time. The church-yard was equally unadorned, and contained few monuments more elegant than the plain white tomb-stone, on which were simply engraven the name and age of the person whose remains it covered. But the grass that profusely mantled the graves was remarkably green and fresh, and the humble daisy, with its blossoms of silvery white, or slightly tinged with a shade of delicate pink, bespangled in wild luxuriance the peaceful abode of the dead.
Behind the churchyard was the parsonage; it was originally a low, rambling and irregular building, but one end of it had been rebuilt in a more modern style, for the convenience of its inhabitants, and though it had no claims to architectural beauty, presented an appearance of great neatness and comfort.
When the cousins opened the little white wicket-gate in front, their senses were immediately saluted with the perfume of the flowers, which grew in rich profusion round the smooth grassplat; but the most delightful fragrance seemed to arise from the beautiful borders of thyme, which were then in full bloom. "Oh !" exclaimed Caroline, "how truly may this spot be called
'The sweet abode of piety and peace!'
It seems to diffuse a holy calm over the mind; and its loveliness is indeed a striking emblem of its dear inhabitants."
Emily's heart responded warmly to this observation; but that heart was too full for utterance, and they silently proceeded to the house. Several beautiful pigeons, Mrs. Morton's favorite
protégés, started at their approach from the parlor-windows, on the outside of which they had just been feeding from their mistress's hand, and flew to their dwelling in the garden. A large and well-fed cat was basking in the sun before the door, and a pretty lap-dog ran to welcome the well-known visitors, with many a joyful bound, and many an artless caress.
Mrs. Morton received her young friends with unaffected kindness; Mr. Morton was absent, on one of his usual visits to his sick parishioners, but he soon joined the little party, and entered with lively interest into their conversation. Emily communicated to her friends the contents of Mr. Somerville's letter. Mr. Morton expressed the warmest approbation of them, but did not seem quite so fearless as his friend, on the subject of Popish influence. He had passed a part of his youth in France, and was consequently well acquainted with the danger. He therefore availed himself of the opportunity to give the cousins the most important cautions, and strongly exhorted them to be always on their guard.
Remember, my dear young friends," said this venerable man, "that Popery is a religion which appeals most powerfully to the senses; which possesses every facility, from the seductive nature of its tenets, and the imposing splendor of its ceremonies, for dazzling the imagination, perverting the judgment, and ensnaring the heart. I apprehend no danger for you from its grosser and more palpable errors; but there are subtleties in its system, to which a young and ardent mind is peculiarly exposed, and perhaps more imminently so, if it takes a deep interest in religion."
The rest of the morning was spent in this interesting conversation, and the cousins treasured up with gratitude his friendly admonitions. After dinner, Mrs. Morton invited them once more to take a walk to the sea-side, where, at a short distance from the parsonage, was a beautiful little bay, the romantic scenery of which excited the admiration of all who beheld it.
It is impossible to imagine anything more sweetly picturesque, than the road which led to this spot. The hills which rose abruptly on each side were clothed with delightful verdure, and formed between them a deep and lovely valley, diversified with pretty cottages, and small gardens carefully cultivated, and smiling in all the gay luxuriance of summer. A few sheep were peacefully feeding on the hills; and a small rivulet, after gliding for some time with a gentle murmur that was scarcely heard, rushed suddenly and noisily down the declivity, as if impatient to lose itself in the waters of the ocean. An abrupt turning in the road conducted to a rustic little mill, and beyond it the eye rested on the romantic features of the bay, with its fantastic groups of rocks along the shore, while the deep blue expanse of the sea terminated the prospect on that side.
Emily and Caroline walked by Mrs. Morton, each clasping an
arm of that amiable woman, and gazed on the scene with mingled feelings of pleasure, tenderness, and sorrow. They conversed on the goodness of him, who has clothed with so many charms this beautiful creation, and Mrs. Morton spoke, with the enthusiasm of deep feeling, of his tender love to his children-of his covenantmercies to his chosen-to those who are interested in his Son's salvation. She dwelt on the kindness and compassion of that mighty and merciful Saviour;-his tender sympathy in the trials and sorrows of his people; and his unchangeable faithfulness, which is pledged to be their eternal safeguard. "Like as a father pitieth his children," said she, "so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. We have not an high priest who cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but was, in all points, tempted like as we are, yet without sin He is our nearest, our tenderest, and most sympathizing friend, one 'who sticketh closer than a brother,' and who will never leave us nor forsake us.' 'Oh! how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! How inex pressibly blessed are those who have this Saviour for their portion !"
Mrs. Morton's countenance glowed with animation, and her young friends hung on her every word with feelings of unutterable affection. They were now standing on the projecting brow of a cliff, which commanded an extensive view of the surrounding objects. They sat down on the soft grass, and contemplated the beauty of the scene. Beneath them lay the mighty ocean, unruffled as a peaceful lake; its rippling waves gently stealing over a bed of smooth sand, or dashing their harmless spray around the rocks that obstructed their progress. A few fishing boats were slowly gliding over its azure bosom, and the white sails of a ship in the distance agreeably contrasted with the sparkling waters. In the valley behind them all was peace and rural beauty; the sweet murmur of the falling stream, and the no less pleasing echo of the waves, were the only sounds that broke on the silence of the evening air.
Absorbed by the interest of their conversation, the three friends lingered in this beautiful spot, till the declining rays of the sun, tinging the clouds with purple and gold, warned them to return to the parsonage. As they were leaving their seat on the cliff, the cousins paused to take a farewell look, and their eyes were suffused with tears, as they thought on the time that must elapse, ere they could hope again to see this endeared and interesting spot.
The richest hues of sunset, as the great luminary disappeared behind the hills, had spread themselves over the horizon, and evening was "drawing her crimson curtains round," when they reached the parsonage. Mr. Morton was waiting for them, and they sat down to the tea-table. During this truly English meal,
the conversation of the morning was resumed, and the pious pastor, and his excellent wife, bestowed many a parting counsel on their youthful friends. But the shades of night closed around, and the moon, rising in silver radiance, warned Emily and Caroline that it was time to return home. Before they parted, however, they all knelt in fervent prayer, and Mr. Morton commended them to the protection of divine grace. He dwelt, with affectionate minuteness, on the nature of their case; their tempta. tions, and their wants; and implored, with great earnestness, those blessings which were suited to their peculiar circumstances. He pleaded, with the ardor of faith, the rich and immutable promises of the gospel, and committed them to the care of their heavenly Father, with all the humble boldness of holy, filial confidence. The objects of his kind solicitude were bathed in tears during this affecting exercise; but a soothing hope seemed to diffuse itself over their minds, as the beautiful colors of the rainbow irradiate the gloom of a stormy sky.
Mr. and Mrs. Morton accompanied them to the foot of the church hill, where they were to enter the carriage. On emerging from the wicket gate, Caroline plucked some wallflowers from a large cluster, with which Mrs. Morton's hand had ornamented the hedge. Their delightful fragrance was increased by the evening-dew, and to her fancy they seemed to breathe of peace, of friendship, and of happiness. They crossed the churchyard in silence, for it recalled many affecting recollections. A few steps from the gate were two little grassy mounds, over which they had often bent on their way to the parsonage. Beneath their humble surface, unmarked by stone or name, slept in sweet repose the bodies of two infants. Once more they paused to look at these interesting graves, and almost envied the lot of their happy little tenants. They passed by the door of the church, through which they had so often accompanied Mr. Morton, on his return from performing divine service; and the tears of long-suppressed feeling flowed unrestrainedly, at the thought that they were now parting with those beloved friends, whom the uncertainty of life might prevent their ever meeting again on this side the grave.
"My dear children," said the minister, comprehending their emotion, and, in his usual fatherly manner, pressing both their hands in his, "forget not that you have a gracious and Almighty Friend, who is ever near you, and ever willing to help in every time of need.' Follow Mr. Somerville's advice,-keep near to that all-sufficient Friend, and carefully avoid every doctrine and practice, contrary to the holy and spiritual character of his gospel. Let the Bible be your standard, and try every sentiment by that infallible touchstone. Let your aim, in every action, be to glorify your God and Saviour; and remember that, if you should meet with any opportunity of being useful to others, by making known