« AnteriorContinuar »
an expensive collection of all our English poets; for she says one cannot have a true taste of any of them without being very conversant with them all.
She will sometimes read'a book of piety, if it is a short one, if it is much commended for style and language, and she can tell where to borrow it.
Flavia is very idle, and yet very fond of fine work ; this makes her often sit working in bed until noon, and be told many a long story before she is up: so that I need not tell you that her morning devotions are not always rightly performed,
Flavia would be a miracle of piety, if she was but half so careful of her soul as she is of her body. The rising of a pimple in her face, the sting of a gnat, will make her keep her room two or three days; and she thinks they are very rash people, that do not take care of things time. This makes her so over careful of her health, that she never thinks she is well enough; and so over indulgent, that she never can be really well. So that it costs her a great deal in sleeping draughts and waking draughts, in spirits for the head, in drops for the nerves, in cordials for the stomach, and in saffron for her tea.
If you visit Flavia on the Sunday, you will always meet good company, you will know what is doing in the world, you will hear the last lampoon, be told who wrote it, and who is meant by every name that is in it. You
will hear what plays were acted that week, which is the | finest song in the opera, who was intolerable at the last
assembly, and what games are most in fashion. Flavia I thinks they are atheists that play at cards on the Sunday,
but she will tell you the nicety of all the games, what cards she held, how she played them, and the history of all that happened at play, as soon as she comes from church. - If
would know who is rude and ill, natured, who is vain and foppish, who lives too high, and who is in
debt; if you would know what is the quarrel at a certain house, or who and who are in love; if you would know how late Belinda comes home at night, what clothes she has bought, how she loves compliments, and what a long story she told at such a place; if you would know how cross Lucius is to his wife, what ill natured things he says to her when nobody hears him; if you would know how they hate one another in their hearts, though they appear so kind in public; you must visit Flavia on the Sunday, But still she has so great a regard for the holiness of the Sunday, that she has turned a poor old widow out of her house, as a profane wretch, for having been found once mending her clothes on the Sunday night.
Thus lives Flavia; and, if she lives ten years longer, she will have spent about fifteen hundred and sixty Sundays after this manner. She will have worn about two hundred different suits of clothes. Out of this thirty years of her life, fifteen of them will have been disposed of in bed; and of the remaining fifteen, about fourteen of them will have been consumed in eating, drinking, dressing, visiting, conversing, reading and hearing plays and romances, at operas, assemblies, balls, and diversions. For you may reckon all the time she is up thus spent, except about an hour and a half, that is disposed of at church most Sundays in the year. With great management, and under mighty rules of economy, she will have spent sixty hundred pounds upon herself, bating only some shillings, crowns, or half-crowns, that have gone from her in acci. dental charities.
I shall not take upon me to say, that it is impossible for Flavia to be saved; but this much must be said, that she has no grounds from Scripture to think she is in the
way of salvation. For her whole life is in direct opposition to all those tempers and practices, which the Gospel has made neces
cessary to salvation.
If you were to hear her say, that she had lived all her life like Anna the prophetess, who departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day, you would look upon her as very extravagant; and yet this would be no greater an extravagance than for her to say that she had been striving to enter in at the strait gate, or making any one doctrine of the Gospel a rule of her life.
Miranda (the sister of Flavia) is a sober, reasonable Christian; as soon as she was mistress of ber time and fortune, it was her first thought how she might best fulfil. every thing, that God required of her in the use of them, and how she might make the best and happiest use of this short life. She depends upon the truth of what our blessed Lord hath said, that there is but one thing needful, and therefore makes her whole life but one continual labour after it. ;. She has but one reason for doing or not doing, for liking or not liking any thing, and that is, the will of God. She is not so weak as to pretend to add what is called the fine lady to the true Christian. Miranda thinks too well to be taken with the sound of such silly words ; she has renounced the world to follow Christ in the exercise of humility, charity, devotion, abstinence, and heavenly affections; and that is Miranda's fine breeding.
While she was under her mother, she was forced to be genteel, to live in ceremony, to sit up late at nights, to be in the folly of every fashion, and always visiting on Sundays. To go patched, and loaded with a burden of fineries to the holy sacrament; to be in every polite conversation; to hear profaneness at the play house, and wanton songs and love intrigues at the opera ; to dance at public places, that fops and rakes inight admire the fineness of her shape, and the beauty of her motions. The remembrance of this way of life makes her exceedingly careful to atone for it by a contrary behaviour.
Miranda does not divide her duty between God, her neighbour, and herself, but she considers all as due to God, and so does every thing in his name, and for his sake. This nakes her consider her fortune as the gift of God, that is to be used; as every thing is that belongs to God, for the wise and reasonable ends of a Christian and holy life. Her fortune, therefore, is divided betwixt berself and several other poor people, and she has only her part of relief from it. She thinks it the same folly to in. Julge herself in needless, vain expenses, as to give to other people to spend in the same way. Therefore, as she will not give a poor man money to go to see a puppet-show, neither will she allow herself any to spend in the same imanner, thinking it very proper to be as wise herself as she expects poor men should be. For it is a folly and a crime in a poor man, says Miranda, 10 waste what is given him in foolish trifles, while he wants meat, drink, and clothes : and is it less folly, or a less crime, in me, to spend that money in silly diversions, which might be so much better spent in imitation of the divine goodness, in works of kindness and charity towards my fellow crearures and fellow Christians ?
This is the spirit of Miranda, and thus she uses the gifts of God; she is only one of a certain number of poor people, that are relieved out of her furtune, and she only Wiffers from them in the blessedness of giving.
Excepting her victuals, she never spent ten pounds a year upon herself. If you were to see her, you would wonder what poor body it was that was so surprisingly neat and clean. She has but one rule that she observes in her dress, to be always clean and in the cheapest things. Every thing about her resembles the purity of her soul, and she is always clean without, because she is always pure within.
Every morning sees her early. at her prayers. She
rejoices in the beginning of every day, because it begins all her pious rules of holy living, and brings the fresh pleasure of repeating them. She seems to be as a guardian angel to those that dwell about her, with her watchings and prayers blessing the place where she dwells, and making intercession with God for those that are asleep.
When you see her at work, you see the same wisdom that governs all her other actions. She is either doing something that is necessary for herself, or necessary for others who want to be assisted. There is scarce a poor family in the neighbourhood, but wears something or other that has had the labour of her hands. Her wise and pious mind neither wants the amusement, nor can bear with the folly of idle and impertinent work. can admit of no such folly as this in the day, because she is to answer for all her actions at night. When there is no wisdom to be observed in the employment of her hands, when there is no useful or charitable work to be done, Miranda will work no more. At her table, she lives strictly by this rule of Holy Scripture, Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.. This makes her begin and end every meal, as she begins and ends every day, with acts of devotion : -she eats and drinks only for the sake of living, and with so regular an abstinence, that every meal is an exercise of self-denial, and she huinbles her body every time that she is forced to feed it.
The Holy Scriptures, especially of the New Testament, are her daily study; these she reads with a watchful attention, constantly casting an eye upon herself, and trying herself by every doctrine that is there. When she has the New Testament in her hand, she supposes herself at the feet of our Saviour and his apostles, and makes every thing that she learns of them so many laws of her life.