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In presenting the following narrative to the public, the author is fully conscious that it has many imperfections; but she is anxious that a right estimate should be formed of its character. It is not a work of fiction, but a collection of facts, thrown together into one tale, with scarcely any additions, and few other alterations than those which were absolutely necessary, in order to disguise names, places, and dates.
It has fallen to her lot, to witness many of the evils attendant on the too common practice of sending young persons to the continent, at that very period of life when the mind is most unguarded, the feelings most susceptible, and the principles most uncertain. She has seen the snares spread for the inexperienced, the spells thrown over the warm imagination, the fascinations entwined round the youthful heart, by that most dangerous system of false religion, which, appealing with almost irresistible power to the senses, through them prostrates the reasoning faculties, and thus silently, but surely, weaves its fatal net around the unsuspecting victim. She has thus seen the foundation of a Protestant education sapped and undermined, till the promising fabric, reared by parental fondness, has been levelled with the dust, and the deluded parents left to mourn their alienated child a prey to the seductions of Popery, or the not less probable danger of unsettled principles, and practical infidelity.
It is, unfortunately, too much the custom with parents, to lull their minds into a false security on the subject, by requiring a promise from the Romish instructors, to whom they entrust their children, that no attempts shall be made to interfere with their
religion; and, satisfied with this assurance, they persuade themselves that there is no cause for fear. Alas! how greatly are they mistaken! The promises thus given are often indirectly, if not directly broken; and even where there is a conscientious adherence to the engagement, there are a thousand perils and snares, inseparably and necessarily connected with a residence among, and constant intercourse with, the votaries of the Romish heresy, which can only be avoided through the special interposition of a merciful Providence. Let such parents remember the daily prayer they teach their children,-" Lead us not into temptation," -and the solemn warning addressed to them, by Him "who searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins,"-" Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
No Roman Catholic instructress could more conscientiously refrain from all intentional interference than Madame d'Elfort; yet the Author again assures her readers, that the evils she has attempted to describe, as resulting from a residence under her roof, are not, in any degree, either imaginary or exaggerated; neither are Madame d'Elfort, her establishment, and her pupils, at all fictitious. She could easily, and without any violation of truth, have deepened the picture with darker shades; she could have painted an unhappy father, deserted in his old age by two daughters, who had been taught that it was a meritorious work, and one which would secure their salvation, to bury themselves in the living death of a cloister, while by thus trampling on every filial duty, they brought down their parent's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. She could have sketched the affecting picture of a bereaved mother, whose heart has been broken, and her remaining days embittered, by the apostasy and undutifulness of an only child, once her joy and hope amidst a life of severe trial, and whose principles were gradually perverted by the inconsiderate indulgence of a Protestant governess, who unreflectingly allowed her occasionally to attend a Popish chapel, and thus exposed her to the snares and artful machinations of the Papists. But she forbears;→→ such instances have been but too frequent; her object was to point out the minute, every-day dangers connected with a Roman Catholic seminary, even under the most favorable circumstances; and she trusts she has said enough for that purpose. She hopes that Christian parents, who value the principles, the immortal
souls, the eternal interests of their children, will no longer send them forth "as sheep in the midst of wolves."
If there are any parents so ignorant of the religion they profess, as to imagine that there is but little real difference between Protestantism and Popery, and that it is of no consequence what we believe, if we are but sincere in that belief, the author would earnestly entreat them to study the Word of God with more attention, and prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit; they will then see that "there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved," but the name of Christ; "neither is there salvation in any other;" and that, as the church of Rome substitutes many other methods of salvation, and many other Saviours, in the place of Him "whom God has anointed," she is essentially an anti-christian church, and therefore to be dreaded, as the greatest enemy to genuine Christianity. And if they are members of the church of England, she begs to refer them to the xvIIIth Article of their church, in confirmation of her assertion.
Finally, she would say to all Protestant parents, whatever their peculiar sentiments may be, "If your children must go to France, place them at least in the hands of Protestants. There are many such establishments there, conducted by English instructors, where they may enjoy all the advantages of a French education, combined with the far more important benefits of religious instruction, on scriptural principles." If this simple narrative,— this "plain, unvarnished tale," should be made instrumental in preserving but one lamb of the Saviour's flock from the snares, pitfalls, and innumerable perils of a Popish school, she will thank Him "without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy that her humble labor "has not been in vain in the Lord."