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I do not think, Sir, continued I, that it is a wise method of enforcing that obedience which every Christian owes to the laws of Christ, to stretch them beyond their true meaning ; since they who attempt to prove too much, frequently prove nothing at all. If the church were in great distress, I acknowledge it would be criminal in us to in crease our substance; but it would be equally criminal not to sell our possessions for the support of our fellow Christians.
Pleading the cause of covetousness, Madam, replied he, is pleading the cause of idolatry; for he who could not err has told us, that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. There is a wide difference betwixt retaining what we possess and laying up more. He who desires to be rich is an idolater, because he trusts in Mammon, and is afraid to rely upon God, as appears by his not being contented in his present condition. They who possessed houses or lands, might lawfully forbear to sell them, even when all things were common. Whilst it remained, said Peter to Ananias, was it not thine own? And after it was sold was it not in thy own power? You perceive, Madam, there is a great difference between retaining our
posses sions and increasing them.
Indeed, Sir, answered I, they appear to me to be equally lawful, or equally culpable ; since we are as much commanded to sell what we have and give alms, as we are not to lay up treasure on earth. An anxious importunity, either to keep our possessions or to increase them, is covetousness: it manifests that our minds are more disposed to trust in uncertain riches, than in the living God. Moreover it ought to be remarked, that the young man in the gospel was reproved, not for desiring to augment his possessions, but for being unwilling to part with them ; on which occasion our Lord observed, that it was trusting in riches which made it so difficult for a rich man to enter in. to the kingdom of God. If the possession of riches unavoidably draw the heart from God, what do you think, Sir, of many of the Old Testament saints, who had great pos. sessions, which they acquired not merely by the divine permission, but through the divine favour? Would the most High have given them such abundance, if the gift had been incompatible with retaining the possession of their hearts ? I am however ready to acknowledge, that a state of affluence is attended with many temptations; and that where God bestows riches upon his children, their gratitude ought to be mixed with fear and trembling, since the difficulties to which they are exposed may be compared to a camel's going through the eye of a needle.
We had more conversation on this subject; but it ended as disputes generally do, without change of sentiment on either side. When we have once adopted this or that opinion, we are apt to look upon it with a parental fondness; and our certainty of its truth increases, not as the evidence increases, but in proportion to the warmth with which we have defended it.
Mr. Rose is, upon the whole, a very excellent man. If such persons misapprehend the divine oracles, how does it become us to implore the divine assistance, and to beseech our heavenly Father to give us large portions of his Spi. rit, that we may be led into all truth, and cheerfully submit to his guidance in whatever we perceive to be his will!
It would have savoured of ostentation, or I might have told this gentleman, that I have long practised myself what he insists upon to be the duty of all. When we had children, my dear husband, who did every thing by rule, appropriated a tenth part of what he gained by trade to charitable uses ; and after their death he did the same by the whole. His fortune was considerably impaired before he died by many losses; yet he continued to give away the surplus of our income. But he often observed to me, that though he believed this to be his duty in his present circumstances, yet this rule would no more suit every person, than the same coat would fit men of different statures, or one medicine cure every disease.
I know a very worthy man who is a draper. When he married, and began business, his wife and he were worth about three hundred pounds. He entered upon a shop belonging to a person who had failed, and took the stock. In order to do this, he borrowed eight hundred pounds, which with the divine blessing on his industry, he has repaid, notwithstanding he has had an increasing family. But would it have been agreeable to the spirit of the New Tese
tament, to tell this young couple, upon their beginning the world, that the laws of Christ's kingdon did not permit them to be worth a shilling more than the three hundred pounds which they set up with? that to attempt it would be idolatry ? and that whatever they might imagine themselves to feel of the divine présence, yet, if they should increase their possessions, they would manifest that they were unbelievers, and that all their religion, and joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, were mere self-deception, and nothing more than a religious path to hell? I think that such an intemperate and ignorant zeal would have gone as far beyond the truth, as it is to be feared, many professors of the present day fall short of it. Undoubtedly covetousness, or an inordinate desire of the things of time and sense,
be they what they may, is an evil as dreadful as it is common. It becomes every servant of Jesus to watch and pray against it; for as, when the eye is evil or disordered, the whole body is full of darkness, so if a Christian, or one who calls himself a Christian, be covetous, we may depend upon it that he is a fruitless branch in every respect, and nigh unto cursing. Many, it is to be feared, deceive themselves, by thinking what they would do for the poor servants of Jesus, if they were in such or such circumstances; not considering, that God requires us to do our duty in the station wherein he has placed us, and to be liberal according to what we have, and not accord. ing to what we have not.
I have this moment received a letter from our dear Eu. sebia, which I shall enclose. I hope she herself will soon arrive.
Please to present my respects to Miss Neville, and to my good friends Thomas and Mary Livingstone.
My dear Miranda, I ever remain,
From Miss Eusebia Neville to Mrs. Worthington.
DEAR MADAM, I HAVE it once more in my power to write to my friends, but know not whether that will ever be the case again.
It is past ten at night. I have just left my father, who has been assuring me that another day shall not pass be. fore I either renounce my heresy, or enter upon my noviciate. Having tried every lenient method in vain, he is determined, he says, to enforce that authority with which God and nature have intrusted him. Father Albino desired me to consider that heresy is a species of insanity, and that heretics ought to be under the guidance of the sober-minded. I replied that the apostle Paul had been charged with madness, as well as his divine master; and that I was not ashamed to bear the reproach of Christ. I begged my father to consider that I was no more able to change my religion than he was to change his. I further told him that I could not consent to go into a nunnery ; and I implored upon my knees, that, as he himself hoped for mercy, he would show mercy to a poor orphan. He wept, and lifting me up embraced me, mingling his tears with mine. My dear Eusebia, cried he, I do violence to my nature ; but I cannot bear to see you out of the pale of the church; therefore do not reply, for I will be obeyed. My dear brother entreated my father to give me more time to consider of it. He replied, that his determination was the result of much consideration, of the best advice, and of many prayers ; that he had bound himself to the performance of it by a solemn vow; and that therefore all entreaties would be vain.
I left the room in great distress, and my brother followed me; but I embraced him, and entreated him to return to my father. I may perhaps escape. I am not without hopes of it'; and in that case I earnestly pray that no part of the blame may be laid upon
My brother has given me an account of the method which God took to make him behold the true light in this land of darkness. A great company will be gathered out of every nation ; and many who now appear to be first in privileges, and perhaps in visible attainments, will be last, while the last will be first.
How does it become us with the great apostle of the Gentiles, to keep the prize in view. Eternal things demand all our attention. Eternity is a vast ocean without a shore. I long to bid farewell to sun, moon, and stars, and to be an inhabitant of that city where such auxiliaries will be for ever useless.
My kind love to all my dear friends is all at present, and perhaps for ever, from,
From Miss Barnwell to Mrs. Worthington.
MY DEAR AUNT, We received your letter, enclosing a letter from my much injured friend'; and as I was yesterday in Miss Neville's closet I heard' a carriage drive into the court-yard. I looked through the window, and' saw Mr. William Neville on horseback, and his father and the priest getting out of a postchaise. Not seeing my dear Eusebia, I concluded that she was imprisoned in a nunnery. But Miss Neville soon came up and informed me that her sister made her escape from St. Omer's the morning after the date of her letter. Immediately upon her being missed, which was not until her brother went to call her to breakfast, several persons were sent different ways in quest'of her. But the whole day being spent without gaining any