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Some vestiges still remain of what is believed to have been St. Herbert's hermitage, and serve to stimulate the imagination while reflecting on the life and character of this religious enthusiast. In contrast, however, to the memory of past times, there is now erected a small gothic edifice by the proprietor of the island, Sir Wilfred Lawson, of Brayton Hall, where he occasionally amuses himself and his friends by fishing in the lake, alive as it is with its countless inhabitants, and where he hospitably regales them with various refreshments.
From this point, as the centre of the lake, the splendid panorama of mountains surrounding its lovely expanse of waters is seen to peculiar advantage. The striking and varied undulations of outline that sweep along the horizon,—the lofty pinnacles,—the overhanging crags,—the finely-broken precipices, intermingled with verdure of every hue,—the falling cascades, sparkling in their downward course, amid the brilliant sunshine,- present an enchanting diversity to the eye which description in vain attempts to pourtray. To complete this romantic picture, the mighty Skiddaw, the “ mountain monarch of the valley," rears his gigantic head, about a mile from the northern extremity of the lake, pre-eminent in all the imposing characteristics of superior altitude and graceful form.
With awakened emotions, excited by the little narration of Mr. Gracelove, our Christian friends now traced every winding path, and surveyed every object that presented itself, in this fairy wilderness. All the accessible points of the lake's margin, whence a view could be obtained, were eagerly approached ; each of which, like the magic changes of the kaleidoscope, exhibited a new form of beauty to the admiring party.
Having made the circuit of this emerald isle, they found themselves once more before the ruins of the now desolate hermitage. They again paused to examine them, as the
brushwood had grown over and partially concealed some portion of the fragments.
Perhaps, mamma," said the gentle Laura," the poor hermit may be buried here ; for I have read in some book of monks being occasionally interred beneath the very cells they occupied while living."
"It is possible, my dear,” replied the tender mother, " that such may be the case. His body may, perchance, repose under the very ground we tread upon, but where is the immortal spirit that once animated it ? This is the momentous question, my dear child. It matters little what becomes of the frail tabernacle, if, while the “ dust returns to the earth as it was, the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” * The sacred preacher, you may remember, observes, there is “ time to be born, and a time to die;"+ but he only can die in peace who has lived in virtue ;-in that strict obedience to the commands of bis God and Saviour which the Bible everywhere enjoins on all that breathe. Then, indeed, is the solemn declaration emphatically true, that “ better is the day of death than the day of one's birth." I
“But may we not hope," rejoined her youthful and pious daughter, " that the poor recluse thus lived and thus died ?"
“We are doubtless called upon, my dear,” said Mrs. Gracelove," to hope and believe, in Christian charity, that such was the case.
His life, so far as we may venture to presume from circumstances, appears to have been dedicated to religious exercises; and though much of a false superstition may have mingled with his observances, yet, if he acted up to the light of knowledge vouchsafed unto him, amid an age of spiritual darkness, strictly obeying the dictates of conscience, his ignorance of that better and fuller light with which we are graciously favoured, in our days, would not, we are taught to believe, condemn him. It is they who know His will, and do it not, that will be condemned at the awful day of judgment.” • Are we then to consider it very wrong, my
* Eccles. xii. 7.
+ Ibid. iii. 2.
Ibid. vii. 1.
mamma, for a person thus to seclude himself from the world, although for the purpose of prayer and devotion ?"
“We are taught, my love, in the sacred Scriptures, especially in that holier dispensation which the blessed Saviour came down from heaven to reveal to lost man, that God requires the exercise of an active, not a mere passive virtue. To the extent, then, in which a man voluntarily puts it out of his power to obey this requirement, unless done in honest ignorance of the duty he seeks to perform, sin is no doubt imputable. What are we to understand, dear Laura, from the following energetic text ? 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.' * Now, as a forcible illustration of what I wish to
to you," continued the pious parent, let us take the second commandment of the law : 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Now is it possible to fulfil this law of love, in all its multiform relations of kindness and charity, if we separate ourselves altogether from the world—from those whom we are thus called upon to serve, and to love, by dwelling in a solitude ? Or if we shut ourselves up in a monastery, or a nunnery, as do the Roman Catholics ; which in most, if not all, of such instances, amounts very nearly, if not altogether, to the same thing ? No, my dear child, the obligations of life are to be performed in the world, among our fellow-creatures, in the diligent and faithful discharge of what Christianity imposes upon us in their behalf, and in self-denying services towards them.
* Eccles. ix. 10.
“But still further, my dear Laura,” she continued ; are commanded by our adorable Lord to show forth an example of Christian conduct to all around us. Reflect on the import of the following words from the divine lips of the Redeemer himself: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."* But in what way can we manifest our good works, or glorify God, if we retire to a desert, or imprison ourselves within the walls of a convent ? Suppose, for a moment, that the gracious and almighty Being, who came to • seek and to save that which was lost,' had thus secluded himself from the sight of men when He took up his abode at Nazareth. Or if, when ' led up of the Spirit into the wilderness,' He had chosen to remain there. Where would have been those heavenly instructions that were destined to restore a lost world ? Where, the display of those mighty miracles that were calculated, at once, to convince and convert mankind, and to attest the presence of the Omnipotent Jehovah ? And, momentous above all other considerations, where would have been the salvation of our fallen race ? And now, my child,” said her mother,
I have answered your question, and can only repeat, that if the subject of our conversation, in thus withdrawing from his fellow-men, believed that thereby he was best serving and worshipping his Maker, after conscientiously striving, in the dark period in which he lived, by earnest prayer to gain a knowledge of his religious duties, in order to perform them, there can be no doubt that in such case he would find a gracious acceptance with God through the atoning blood of Christ. At the same time, we must carefully guard ourselves in arguing from his case to that of our own. We, my dear, live in a fuller and purer light of Gospel truth; and, therefore, what might be the superstition
* Matt. v. 16.
of ignorance in the benighted hermit, and consequently to be forgiven in him, would be, as regards ourselves, sinning against light and knowledge, and therefore to be condemned."
The conversation was here interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Gracelove, who, with his two sons, had withdrawn to the borders of the lake for the purpose of giving them a lesson in the art of sketching. “And now," said the happy father, “ I am going to show you a great curiosity, which is but rarely to be seen, and which is characteristic of our beautiful lake. It is no less than the phenomenon of a floating island. We must proceed,” he continued, " to the south-eastern corner of Derwentwater, where it lies, and where it has made its appearance within the last ten days, after an absence of several years."
A simultaneous exclamation immediately followed this announcement. “A floating island !" exclaimed the little Maria, who had hitherto listened in silence,—“ what is that, dear
“A floating island !" re-echoed Jasper ; " how can earth and stones swim, papa
?" “ A floating island !” exclaimed in the same breath Edmund and Laura ; " what an extraordinary thing! How very sin
“ Well, step into the boat, my dear children,” said Mr. Gracelove," and while we are rowing thither I well tell you all about it.” Stimulated by a very natural curiosity, the arrangement of their persons in the boat was very quickly effected, and the desired information as readily given.
“ This remarkable object,” observed the kind parent,“ lies at the distance of one hundred and fifty yards from the shore. It consists of a large mass of earth, measuring about six feet in depth, and which, except under peculiar circumstances which give it a temporary buoyancy, rests at the bottom of