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Has it not generally been so, in all the persecutions of the Romish church? Who, but a blinded papist, will dare deny, but there was much more religion among the persecuted, than among the persecutors ? Persons notorious for piety and usefulness, fell victims to their rage : while the most abandoned of all the human race, were caressed, as the first order of saints.
15. I may sum up the whole in a few words. A state creed, made by the legislature, has no authority from scripture ; so far from it, that Christ has declared, his kingdom is not of this world ; and, therefore, is not to be made a worldy sanctuary, by the corrupt and persecuting creeds of men. It is certain, that all the cunning and art of men, CAN NEVER reconcile a practice so repugnant to every principle of civil and religious liberty, with the genius of our holy religion. Nature, reason, and scripture, revolt against it. And it is in vain to pretend, that there may be a siate religion, which is altogether scriptural, and not affording a pretext to persecute ; because such an instance never yet has been known, nor can the thing be possible, while human nature remains what it is. When opposition to the established creed, is a crime against the state, the magistrate and minister are bound by the solemn oaths of their offices to punish the criminal ; and they are guilty of perjury, if they neglect to do it. And when their favorite system is put in danger by such opposition, depend on it, they will not be guilty of perjury, in order to spare the offender. Our own enlightened country, has given proofs of this, even though it has never had a national religion ; yet some of the dominant party have availed themselves of every thing within their power, to oppress and keep down such as were called dissenters. * Let the advocates for religious establishments, therefore, say what they will, I will never believe, that there can be a state creed, without persecution ; and, instead of its being a blessing to the church,
If these men would lay hold on such slim pretexts, to hang quakers and banish baptists, to tax other denominations to their ministers, and sell their property at auction, if they did not willingly pay ; or carry them to prison, or set them in the stocks, and throw rotten eggs at them ; what would they not do, if they had the same power once possessed by the church of Rome? Not all the excuses offered in their favor, by the geographers and historians of our country, can make me believe, they would not put on as many heads and horns as the Romish beast, it they were fed in the pasture of state established religion.
or mankind, it is one of the GREATEST CURSES which ever came on the human race.
Do you think, said Charles, there were no Christians in the Church of Rome ?
There were undoubtedly individuals, who possessed religion in that church ; but they were in heart opposed to her persecutions and corruptions, and lamented the reigning evils. One thing is certain, there is so much malignancy, cruelty, and inhumanity in persecution, that no persecutor can possi. bly belong to the family of God; could the contrary be admitted, no wretch on earth could be unchristianized.
I think, said Mr. P. that we have cause of thankfulness to God, that we have our birth and education in a land of gor pel light and liberty.
On the next day the funeral was attended, according to appointment. Mr. Ashton delivered a short, appropriate discourse. He was a workman, who needed not to be ashamed-rightly dividing the word of truth.
The behavior of the afflicted widow, evidenced a considerate Christian mind; and what is the power of grace on the human soul.
The family of Mr. P. followed as mourners, and thus evidenced their Christian condescension, and the esteem they had for an honest Christian, and faithful tenant. Prudentia behaved toward Lette, the widow, as if she had been an affectionate sister.
The whole was highly affecting to Charles. The sound doctrine of the sermon, the sensible, tender manner in which it was delivered, the solemnity of the occasion, accompanied with resignation, condescension, sympathy, and the strictest propriety, formed a combination of interesting circumstances, which made too deep an impression to be easily forgotten, or to pass unimproved.
At their return from the house of affliction, Mrs. P. said, I am highly pleased with the behavior of Lette. Ever since she has lived on our farm, she has been, to me, more like a
daughter than like a tenant. I hope her behavior will continue to be prudent and reputable. It seems much more likely to be so, than if she allowed herself to be carried away with extravagant passions. Such a show of passion generally indicates want of love, or want of stability. Sometimes indifference of affection, or mere hatred, disguises itself in noisy weeping, and loud lamentations, in order to make spectators believe they feel their loss insupportable.
Lette's father was an example of this kind. She had the best of mothers—but, poor woman, she was unhappily matched. She died some years ago, leaving three daughters, the youngest of whom was twelve years of age ; Lette being the eldest. At her funeral, he bowled and wrung his hands, as if in an agony of grief. During the funeral services, he went several times to gaze upon the corpse, and wept over it ;when at the grave, he must take a parting look, and repeat the signs of his pretended sorrow. For the first week he appeared cast down; the second his countenance brightened; . and the third he was falling in love with all the girls and widows in the neighborhood, and zealously courting a second wife---in six weeks he was married to a girl of eighteen. A little while, at first, she pretended great affection for his children, during which time she persuaded him to make sure to her his whole estate; after which, she began to throw off the mask, and treated them with some abuse. But she did not openly abuse them, till she had a child of her own; when it was soon manifest, that her child must share all the affection of herself and husband; and the other children be considered as deserving nothing but abuse. incessant complaints were brought against them, which he seemed at first unwilling to hear, but at length was teazed into compliance. Having thus far gained her point, she dared to treat them with open Cruelty. Nothing done by them could please her. Continual railing and scolding, at last broke down their spirits, and made them weep, in pensive sadness, the loss of so excellent a mother.
He died not long after, and left his property in her possession—and the three daughters were no longer permitted to be sheltered under a father's roof. Turned out into an evil
world, with none to care for them, and many to tempt them l astray, they were in a miserable condition. Lette being the
eldest, sought herself a place in a reputable family, and endeavored to act the part of a directress to her younger sis
ters. For a while she succeeded, and they maintained their reputation. But her second sister, at the age of sixteen, was seduced by an unprincipled villain, and glorying in his foul deed, he left her with a blasted reputation, to repent the unguarded moment, when she yielded to his base desires. Finding herself neglected for her misconduct, she associated with some lewd females, and soon ended her days, a miserable victim of illicit amours. The other being naturally more volatile, became an idle, strolling wretch, and it is not now known where she is.
All this seemed more than Lette could endure. She wept when she thought or spoke of it, making many attempts to reclaim them to virtue and to God; but to no purpose. In the mean while, she was respected and well treated in the family where she lived. She remained there till John formed an acquaintance with her, and was shortly after married. It has now pleased Divine Providence to separate them; but as she has been a professor of religion several years, I trust she will find this affliction work for her a far more, exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. She was proceeding in her remarks, when Mr. P. and the General came in, who had been absent during the time of the preceding relation ; which she had given to Charles and her daughters, as an example on the one hand, to deter from vice, and, on the other, to show what steadfast virtue, though allied to misfortune and poverty, may yet be beir to.
My dear, said Mr. P. the General has been telling me he must leave us to-morrow morning, for his own home. I have been dissuading him from his intention ; desiring him to tarry another day; after which I will consent to his wishes, though his company will be highly pleasing, still longer. I have invited Mr. Ashton to dine with us to-morrow,
apd though he is not of the same denomination with the General, I am persuaded he will find him an agreeable, good man.
I am much pleased, said Mrs. P. to hear that our good minister is to be with us to-morrow, and cannot consent that our friend should leave us, till he has been favored with the intended interview. I am confident he will find it delightfully profitable.
Charles united his importunity, saying, I know not how to part with you so soon. My acquaintance with you, Sir, has been short, but so pleasing, and useful, that it will be painful to close it.
The General replied, I think on the whole, of yielding to your solicitations ; but not without almost blaming myself for having already tarried two days within fifteen miles of a beloved family. For many years I have taken a tour in the country for my health, and the time has not yet arrived for my return; but I enjoy so much pleasure at my own fireşide, surrounded with my family, that I am seldom long absent, unless duty or business imperiously calls. And I have often looked on men with a kind of contemptuous pity, who seem to be more delighted with a neighbor's house, or a tavero, than with the company of their wiyes and children.
When such things occur, there must be a fault somewhere ; and it may be chargeable on both parties. It may originate in babits of intemperance, or an idle disposition, or the Athenian taste of novelty, or in want of affection to their wives. Either is criminal, and ought not to be indulged. But I believe it is not unfrequently occasioned by a sour, morose disposition in the wife. She is seldom good natured-is often scolding and finding fault; and if her husband happens to do amiss, instead of trying to win him by gentle treatment and conversation, she pelts him night and day with provok. ing language, giving the poor man no peace of his life. These evils occasion the destruction of much domestic happiness.
Charles observed, my own father's house was a circle of domestic enjoyment, and I never found myself bappier, than when beside my parents, surrounded by my younger brothers and sisters ; and to my parents, this situation seemed the crown of earthly felicity. But what can be more unhappy, than for a man's home to be rendered hateful, and to have unceasing war, where peace should have a permanent residence ?
At the close of these remarks, Charles ventured to look at Prudentia, who had been hearing with the most silent attention. Could I hope, said he to himself, that she will ever be mine, I shall have little reason to fear the evils of domestic hatred and strife.