« PreviousContinue »
advice of Solomon, and the rod was not spared that the child might not be spoilt.
The continuance of this excellent system of education had, at length, produced more permanent effects on the temper of this little maid ; and, at the period at which this history commences, Mrs. Gracelove had the grateful satisfaction of witnessing a decided improvement in the character and conduct of her youngest daughter. The anxious and pious mother found, to her great comfort, as well as to the increase of her faith, that equally, in a religious as in a physical sense, was that scripture righteous and true which says, “ Cast thy bread upon the waters : for thou shalt find it after
There is a familiar saying that “ Rome was not built in a day.” With equal truth it may be declared that holy dispositions are neither established in a day nor a year; and, in the majority of instances, not before the lapse of many years ; and then only by the painful and unremitting exertions of an awakened conscience combating, and at length, by the grace of God, triumphing over, the besetting sins of the heart. In the case, therefore, of so young a child as Maria Gracelove, in whom conscience was only beginning to assert its spiritual supremacy over the motives and affections, it could not be, neither was it expected by her parents, that the evil of her temper would be at once eradicated. They were sufficiently delighted and thankful to God to perceive a marked amendment in her conduct, both as regarded the less frequency of the offence committed, and the milder form it had assumed. They were now content to await in faith and patience the gracious accomplishment of the rest.
One day, however, after a longer period than usual of circumspect and obedient behaviour, the still unsubdued leaven discovered its latent working in her unruly little heart, under the following circumstances. It appears that some time previously, Mrs. Gracelove had ordered the gardener to form & parterre of flowers, to be called “ Maria's garden," as an innocent and instructive recreation for her juvenile daughter, and had taught her the names and some of the properties of the various flowers it contained,
* Eccles xi. 1.
Pleased with the possession of something so interesting, as belonging exclusively to herself, the gratified child was continually running to her little domain, as she said, to
see the flowers grow," and to make her tiny bouquet, while the appointed lesson for the day was left in sad arrear. On the morning in question, her mamma had particularly enjoined her to remain in the house, in consequence of the saturated state of the walks, arising from heavy rains that had fallen the previous night. Having assigned to her the task she was to learn, Mrs. Gracelove left her in the parlour, with the appearance of conforming to her wishes, and proceeded
stairs to attend to some domestic arrangements. The lesson allotted to the little maiden on that occasion, consisted of twenty words of spelling; and it was certainly her first intention to yield an implicit obedience to the commands of her parent.
She set herself, therefore, diligently to work, and had accomplished the first eight of the series, when her sympathies were unhappily awakened by the word “ dahlia.” She at once thought of her pet flowers, -sighed gently, and laid down her book. However, after musing for two or three minutes, the child resisted the temptation that presented itself, and with an effort resumed her lesson. Again she learnt five more words, when a second evil coincidence fairly upset her moral philosophy.
It is said that Satan will sometimes array himself as an angel of light. In the present instance the tempter came in the form of a beautiful flower; and a rose might well entice a child of eight years of age, when an apple could seduce the first of her sex, and the second of created beings, formed with attributes of perfection, and inhabiting a paradise.
The unsuspecting Maria, as a second unhappy stumblingblock in the path of her duty, had come to the word representing the flower just named,-a rose,—and which formed the pride of her little garden ; and her obedience at length gave way to the renewed impulse she had just resisted. She now closed her book-looked round the room-saw she was alone, and creeping silently to the door, proceeded hastily to the forbidden parterre, without shawl or bonnet.
After remaining in the garden about ten minutes, absorbed in the contemplation of her little property, removing a weed from one place, plucking a flower from another, and gazing with delight all around her, she returned to the house with her shoes and stockings wet through. Conscious that the appearance of her feet would tell the tale of her disobedience, were her mamma to see them in the state in which they were, as well as for the purpose of removing the unpleasant dampness that she felt, she was stealing softly up stairs to her room, in order to change her shoes and stockings, when she encountered her parent midway.
“Well, my dear,” said Mrs. Gracelove, “where are you going ?"
Only up-stairs, mamma,” replied the naughty little Maria. “ I see that, my dear,” answered her mother, “ very plainly; but I want to know what for.”
Here the child was silent, and inclined her head downwards to see if her feet were visible. The motion attracted the attention of Mrs. Gracelove, who immediately perceived what her undutiful daughter had been doing during her absence.
Distressed as the anxious parent was at this direct transgression of her commands, so recently expressed, she felt nevertheless that her first care was to provide against the effects of her child's disobedient conduct. Having taken her, therefore, to her room, and put dry stockings and shoes on her feet, she entered upon the more arduous duty of convincing the naughty Maria of the extreme impropriety of her behaviour. She had first thought that this was a case in which a moderate application of the rod might beneficially assist the accompanying admonition. But inclined as the tender mother always was to the side of leniency, though not to that degree of weakness which is divested of firmness, she resolved to try the more congenial influence of moral discipline. She recollected, also, that she had it in her power to accomplish her purpose more effectually by excluding her daughter from participating in the amusements of a juvenile party, which was invited to assemble at the cottage on the following day.
As Mrs. Gracelove, whenever she found it needful to reprove her children for serious faults, had always, with equal piety and judgment, drawn her admonitory lessons, and exhibited her examples from the pages of sacred Scripture, so she pursued the same wise course on the present occasion. Knowing that Maria had seen, in the various illustrations of the Bible, the representation of Jonah being swallowed by the whale, Mrs. Gracelove made this instructive history the subject of her lecture. She pointed out to her daughter, in simple but expressive language, the awful consequences of disobedience as exemplified in the person of the rebellious prophet. She first told her that, in the instance of Jonah, the crime was aggravated to an extreme degree from the circumstance that it was God himself who had condescended directly to reveal his will to his faithless servant. But it was
never to be forgotten, that the same gracious Being who thus signally punished the transgressions of a positive command, immediately emanating from his own Divine Spirit, had supported the authority of an earthly parent ; inasmuch as He had said, “Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
Aware that no better opportunity would present itself, for the purpose of impressing on her child's mind the religious moral deducible from this solemn record of a prophet's disobedience, the conscientious parent opened out to her the circumstances which peculiarly constituted his grievous sin. Indeed, as the Book of Jonah is very short, consisting but of four chapters, she made her daughter read the whole of it to her, and was thus better able to explain and enforce its awful contents. Mrs. Gracelove, addressing her child, said, “ She would now perceive that God, having commanded his servant to go to Nineveh, a great and populous city, and to cry against it on account of the wickedness that prevailed within it, Jonah, in direct violation of the divine injunction, determined not to proceed there. As the sacred historian relates it, ‘Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa ; and he found a ship going to Tarshish : so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.' *
“You see, Maria," continued the prudent and affectionate mother," how utterly vain it is, as well as wicked, to attempt to escape from the Almighty. His omnipresent eye is ever upon us,- it is about our path, and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways. Open your Bible, my dear,” she said, “ to the 139th Psalm, and read that affecting and most sublime description of the universal presence of the
* Jonah i. 3.