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Nor are the ministers of religion only stigmatized by such names, among men of satire and party spirit; the same blind, cruel, sweeping criminations cover multitudes of the laity also. Alas! I am afraid, I run little risk of being accounted over severe or cynical in alleging, that to have any serious concern about the one thing needful; to be regular and exemplary in the worship of God publicly and privately •, to be active in checking vice, or promoting reformation of manners; to be uniformly sober and temperate; will, from some, procure the character of righteous overmuch, wild, sour, hypocritical, troublesome.
Bf.cause Lady Leven cultivated friendship with the eminently pious, on account of her uniform piety and regard to the institutions of religion, and her discountenancing all manner of irregularities, I have no doubt that the tongue of lukewarmness, of irreligion and excess, did not fail to pronounce her, and all of the same description, strict, wild, enthusiastic, and perhaps hypocritical. She had counted this cost. Such criminations of worldly people on th« godly were sometimes treated by her Ladyship with pleasantry. She regarded the detractors of the good with pity, and prayed for them who despitefully used the people of God. One may smile at the absurdity and ridiculousness of speeches and conduct, which, nevertheless, discover principles and a state of mind much to be blamed, regretted, and pitied.
For the very same reasons that her respect and value for Mr. Whitefield were disliked, to use the softest expression, by those men who set down orthodoxy for weakness, and make it a term of reproach; and who consider zealous exertion, in what respects religion, as extravagance-, Lady Leven's partiality for ministers whose characters and doc
trines were similar to his, would be considered as a defect, and not an ornament. It is not to be forgotten, however, that she did not, by any means, view the characters and discourses of ministers with the scrupulosity and suspicion of some, alas! of too many, in the present day, who propose many a shibboleth of separation and reprobacy of their own, and consider and pronounce men and discourses offenders, for a word. Him who stated himself the antagonist of Mr. Whitefield, and a leader against him, respecting Calvinism, she valued and respected. She honoured him for his work's sake, and for his Master's sake: She believed Mr. "Wesley had been instrumental in doing much good: She relished his pious and lively conversation: She admired his unremitting and unwearied labours. She often observed, that she was convinced that truly valuable men and sincere Christians differ more in words than in ideas, in appearance than reality; and that, if they could fully explain themselves, or define their terms with precision, their differences, in many instances, would disappear, with all their unhappy effects. She regretted exceedingly the asperities of bigotry, the suspicious and unaccommodating spirit of party, and whatever tended to keep Christians at variance. She was at the expence of publishing a discourse recommending union among Christians, consisting, to the best of my recollection, of aphorisms and extracts from authors of the first name upon the subject. But while I thus bear witness to her candour and charity, 1 must at the same time observe and record her firm belief of the grand peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of our religion. She more than disliked indifference, not to say hostility, to soundness in the faith. She knew that a full and steady faith in the essential doctrines of Christianity has the happiest effects on the holiness, and, therefore, on the happiness of mankind. I add, with pleasure, that this was demonstrated in
her own disposition, temper, and conduct. Lady Leven's uniform piety and sanctity of life abundantly exposed the absurdity, to give it no severer name, of those who are perpetually representing the danger to morality from preaching the great doctrines of Christianity, and urging faith in them. She knew and felt that faith in these truths is the grand principle of universal holiness; and that affiance in the grace of God, so far from being the pillar of security, is the ground and pillar of holiness, the most perfect, the most beautiful, and the most lasting. Faith purifies the heart, accorded perfectly with her favourite motto, Holiness is happiness.
I Have already mentioned Lady Leven's early piety and regular devotion. Your Lordship, with all who ever visited Melville House, knows, as well as I, that no company, no avocations, no business whatever, prevented her closet meditations and devotions; and particularly, that the hour preceding family prayers and supper was always devoted to retirement. That it was a devout retirement I have no question. I know, too, that her companions of the closet were excellently fitted to assist her devotion. Her library was a judicious collection cf the best books for an oratory. The writings of Leighton, Howe, Watts, Walker, Doddridge, Hervey, Davies, and of other devotional and practical writers of the like character, were much esteemed, and much consulted and perused by her. Lives and memoirs of eminently pious persons, printed and manuscript, made a considerable part of her collection. Sermons, printed or preached, that were affectionate, impressive, and practical, were her delight.
With the Countess of Lever, private devotion and uniform *
form sanctity of life, did not supersede attention t6 family religion and public worship. It was always agreeable to her to have family prayers. The successive preceptors of the young gentlemen and ladies of the family were also the domestic chaplains. I shall all my life remember with much pleasure the many opportunities I enjoyed of presiding in her presence, at the head of a very large family, in family devotions. Not unfrequently it was rather a congregation than an household; and, without departing from the modern sense of the word, I might say, on many occasions, I was, in these exercises, the minister of the church in Melville House.
The Lord's day, it will easily be believed, found her Ladyship, and showed her to be, given to devotion. So long as her health permitted, she regularly attended public worship, in the forenoon and afternoon of every Sunday. It is not to be doubted that her advice, authority, and example, had their effects in securing the more regular attendance of all around her. At no time forbidding auste* rity marked her behaviour; the Lord's day's cheerfulness, however, was more serious and solemn. On that day, conversation of a religious cast was preferred and supported, whenever it could be unobtrusively introduced. I think it is here, my Lord, right to mention a particular instance of Sabbath sanctification, or of reverence for the Lord's day, and its solemn exercises; she never perused the letters she received that day, till after public worship. Need I mention to your Lordship the reasons of this resolution and practice? Alas! the mind is but too ready to wander in the solemn exercises of divine worship, too apt to Be inattentive to the truths delivered in the house of Gon, and in his name; without the temptations which may arise from , the epistles of our friends, informing us of particulars that
Way very much affect and agitate the mind. It is good to enter fully into the spirit of the service. After the composure and solemnity of worship, and attending to the doctrines of salvation, orte is better prepared for receiving interesting information, whether pleasing or afflictive. I Suppose it was in this way Lady Leven reasoned. It is in this way I vindicate, or rather applaud and recommend, her wise and pious practice:
The truly devout, my Lord, are'not, and indeed cannot possibly be* inattentive to any one branch of piety or of duty. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, are connected with and influence, all godliness and holiness of life. In sketching my moral picture, therefore, I shall touch some of the more prominent and distinguishing features of Lady Leven's character, and which I had oppot-a tunities of examining and studying more particularly.
I Begin with her serious attention to the dispensations and aspects of Providence. She knew that inattention to the course of Providence is very severely condemned in the sacred Scriptures, that the pious in ancient times seriously considered the operations of the great Upholder and Governor of the world, and that much instruction and consolation arise from pondering the ways of God. She observed the times, the language of the tod, and of him that appointed it 5 the Voice of smiling, as well as of afflictive* events. This devout attention to Providence I had often occasion to observe, in matters of a more personal and private nature, such as respected her health, her quiet and enjoyment •, such as interested her family, her relations, her friends and neighbours. It was very easy to perceive, that the discovering of the wisdom and goodness of Gou, the language of his dispensations, and, to use, a scriptural 3 A express