« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
clergyman at Kettering, which continued till the death of the latter in 1785. Considering this, it
may seem rather extraordinary that he should be so decidedly averse to religious establishments : but his dislike was not to persons, but things.
He approved of many things in Glas and Sandeman, but greatly disliked their controversial bitterness, and the scorn with which they treated persons whom he considered as great and good men, however in some things they might have erred. I have heard him say, “If Edwards on the Affections, you will find the greatest part of what is valuable in Sandeman, without any thing of his spirit.” He also remarked, that many of the followers of Glas and Sandeman were men of a dissipated life, and feared that some of them were very little short of deists. His remarks on some of the peculiarities of Sandeman inay be seen in letter xli. The substance of that letter was some years since sent to a friend in Edinburgh, who, taking it for a real conversation, printed it under the title of Serious Considerations addressed to Glasites, and other Congregational Separatists from the Church of Scotland.
The present work is offered to the public, partly by the request of the author's friends, and partly as a tribute of- filial affection. That the divine blessing may attend it, is the prayer of the reader's well-wisher,
MR. JAMES NEVILLE, a gentleman descended from a long train of ancestors, who had constantly adhered to the Church of Rome, after making the grand tour of Europe, returned to his native country. His father, who was a widower, having died in his absence, he determined to spend the remainder of his days in the enjoyment of a domestic life; for which purpose he chose to occupy the family seat, a large Gothic building which was situated at Thornton, a village in the neighbourhood of Castle-Hampton.
Mr. Neville, being a comely, well-bred gentleman, and very rich, found little difficulty in obtaining a wife. A friend of his about twenty miles distant, had a ward that was an heiress, who also was a member of the church of Rome : they soon became agreeable to each other, and were united in the bonds of wedlock. In the course of four years. they were blessed with three fine children ; William, who was the eldest, so named after his grandfather, Maria, and Eusebia. Mr. Neville having the misfortune to lose a most tender and accomplished wife at the birth of this last child, did all in his power to perpetuate her memory, by calling it by her name,
Very little occurred for several years worthy of relation. Mr. Neville chiefly employed himself in forming the minds of his children. He oft observed, that the many apostacies, as he termed them, from the church of Rome, owed their origin to the want of early instruction; and that the minds of youth uncultivated, may be compared to lands neglected by the husbandman, which receive all the seeds that are scattered at random by the winds. He seemed indeed to have it only at heart, that his children might inherit his religion as well as liis estate, and that what he was pleased to call the Catholic Apostolic faith, might be transmitted to his latest posterity. He remembered with thankfulness the care which his parents had taken of his education; so that in a land filled with heresies, and every day multiplying their number, he had never once swerved from the sentiments which they had taught him.
The great affection he had for his children, made him determine not to marry again. My dear children, he would often say, I do but live for you: your happiness is the utmost bound of my wishes. Whenever the weather permitted, he used to walk with them in his gardens, or in the fields, and point out the wisdom of God in the works of creation, and his goodness in providing for all his creatures. At other times he would extol the uni. formity of the church of Rome, contrasting it with the divisions and subdivisions of heretics. He would also repeatedly ask their sentiments on every subject which he thought within the compass of their knowledge, and would reward those of them with books or money, who he judged had given the most pertinent answers. This was such a spur to the emulation of the young gentleman and his sisters, that they were constantly racking their invention to outvie each other ; and by this method there was not a sentiment of their father's which they did not so thoroughly imbibe and digest, as to make it their
Their education was intrusted to a priest who resided in the family. He was a native of Florence, and had accompanied Mr. Neville in his travels. This gentleman was well acquainted with the classics, and was of a temper kind and obliging. In a word, Antonio Albino, (for that was his name,) by his engaging manners had secured the respect of the family, and the entire confidence and affection of his pupils.
Master Neville was a lover of learning, and possessed
a retentive memory; so that at the age of fifteen, to Greek and Latin he had added French and Italian, with some knowledge of the Hebrew: all these he acquired without thinking that learning was a burden.
Mr. Neville was also very happy in his daughters. Maria, who was the eldest, was gay, lively, and of a ready wit, and might have been termed pretty before she had the small-pox; but that dreadful disease robbed her of a beauty, which perhaps she tliought too highly of. Eusebia was of a modest, meek, and engaging temper. She was rather tall for her age, but exactly proportioned; which, together with a fine open countenance, regular features, and a delicate complexion, made her the envy of her sex. These endowments are too often overvalued. Beauty is many times the gift of Providence to the proudest, vainest, silliest people. This momentary excellence leads such persons to value and adorn the casket, while they neglect the jewel. They do not consider that it is the mind only which constitutes the perfection of our nature; that exterior advantages are enjoyed by us in common with the brute creation ; and that in many of them we are far outstripped by the savages of the desert.
Mr. Neville was constantly watchful to guard his daughters against the errors too common to their sex. My children, he would say, a noble building requires sumptuous furniture : yet I have seen many ladies with agreeable persons, whose minds and bodies have been the greatest contrast. How are we chagrined when we find these pretty things to be mere outside. Such may make many conquests, but they can retain those only who are as empty as themselves. Whereas if a woman have but a moderate share of this outside varnish, yet if we per. ceive her to be modest, discreet, humble, and courteous, we are agreeably disappointed. A wise man judges such a one to be a proper friend and companion for life ; fit to be the mistress of a family, and likely to sow the seeds of piety and virlue in the tender minds of her offspring. Such a woman is a blessing to mankind in general, and especially to the rising generation; children generally keeping that bent which is given them in their childhood.
Thus did he take every opportunity of conversing with them on the most important subjects; and the visible improvement which they made in knowledge and obedience showed that his labour was not in vain. The feuds and animosities too common among children brought up together, were scarcely known in this family, and if at any time peevišhness took place of affability, a glance of the father's eye was sufficient to restore the former tranquillity. He had indeed the art of being obeyed as implicitly as an eastern monarch, at the same time that he ruled with the greatest moderation and sweetness.
Notwithstanding Mr. Neville was of the Romish communion, he was every where well received, and his acquaintance was courted by the neighbouring gentry. He had an agreeable turn for conversation, and was of a ready wit: yet he never, by indulging the self-sufficient sneer, or the cutting repartee, gave pain to the meanest person ; nor could he patiently hear others make use of that cruel liberty ; justly observing, that he who can laugh at hearing a man abused, would find equal reason for mirth if he were to see him thrown into the dirt; and that nothing can be baser than this malevolent disposition, since the best characters, and the most sacred things, may be distorted by false wit, and rendered the subjects of ridicule.
He was easy of access to the poorest persons of his village, who ever found him ready to commiserate their distresses, and to relieve their wants. He judged that nothing was better calculated to bring them within the pale of the church than those arguments to their senses, which the very dullest were capable of understanding: and the event proved that he made a just estimate of human nature.
When alone with his children, he would oft deplore the miseries that were brought upon this nation by its schism from the church of Rome. When men, he would say, once get out of the high road into crooked paths, it is no