Hannah More.

The complete works of Hannah More online

. (page 43 of 135)
Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 43 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


mg, she uncovered the bed whereon she lay,
«j^ showed me two worm, thick, new blankets.
I could not believe my own eyes, sir, because
when I went out in the morning, I had left her
with no other covering than our little old, thin,
blue ruflr. I was still more amazed when she
put half a crown into my hand, telling me she
had had a visit from Mr. Jenkins, and Mr,
Jones, the latter of whom had bestowed all these
good things upon us. Thus, sir, have our lives
been crowned with meroies. My wife got
about again, and I do believe, under rrovidence,
it was owing to these comfbrts ; for the rheu-
matisro, sir, without blankets by night, and
flannel by day, is but a baddish Job, especially
to people who have little or no nre. She will
always be a weakly body ; but thank God her
soul prospers and is in health. But I beg your
pardon, sir, ibr talking on at this rate.' — * Not
at all, not at all,' said Mr. Johnson ; * I am much
pJeased with your story, you shall certainly see
roe in a few days. Good night' So saying,
he slipped a crown into his hand and rode <m.
Sorely, said the shepherd, goodne$» and mercy
have followed me all the day$ of my life, as he
gave the money to his wife whe;n he got home
at night

As to Mr. Johnson, he found abundant, mat-
ter for his thoughts during the rest of hi^ jour-
ney. On the whole, he was more disposed to
envy than to pity the shepherd. I have seldom
seen, said he, so happy a man. It is a sort of
hap{]4neas which the world could not give, and
which I plainly see, it has not been able to take
away. This must be the true spirit of religion*
I see more and more, that true goodness is not
merely a thiog of words and opinions, but a
living principle brought into every common ac-
tion of a man's life. What else oould have sup-
ported this poor couple under every bitter trial
of want and sickness ? No, my honest shepherd,
I dj not pity, but I respect and even honour
thee ; and I will visit thy poor hovel on my re-



turn to Salisbury, with as much pleasure as I
am now going to the houflo of my friend. '

If Mr. Johnson keeps his word in sending
me an account of his vibit to the shepherd's
cottage, I shall be very glad to entertain my
readers with it



PART IL

I AM willing to hope that my readers will not
be sorry to hear some farther particulars of
their old acquaintance, the Shepherd of SalU-
bury Plain, They will call to mind that at the
endof the first part, he was returning home full
of gratitude for the favours he had received
from Mr. Johnson, whom we left pursuing bis
journey, afler hating promised to make a visit
to the shepherd's cottage.

Mr. Johnson, afler having passed some time
with his friend, set out on his return to Salis-
bury, and on the Saturday evening reached a
very small inn, a mile or two distant from the
shepherd's village ; for he never travelled on a
Sunday without such a reason as he might be
able to produce at the day of judgment He
went the next morning to the church nearest
the house where he had passed the night ; and
afler taking such refVeshment as he could get
at that house, he walked on to find out the shep-
herd's cottage. His reason for visiting him on
a Sunday was chiefly because he supposed it to
be the only day which the shepherd's employ-
ment allowed biro to pass at home with his fa-
mily ; and as Mr. Johnson had been struck with
his talk, he thought it would be neither un-
pleasant or unprofitable to observe ' how a man
who carried such an appearance of piety spent
his Sunday : for though he was so low in the
world, this gentleman was not above entering
very closely into his character, of which he
thought he should be able to form a better iudg-
ment, by seeing whether his practice at Lome
kept pace with his professions abroad : for it is
not so much by observing bow people talk, as
how they live, that we ought to judge of their
characters.

AfVer a pleasant walk, Mr. Johnson got with-
in sight of the cottage, to which he was direct
ed by the clump of nawthorns and the broken
chimney. He wished to take the family by
surprise ; and walking gently up to the house
he stood awhile to listen. The door being half
open he saw the shepherd who (looked so re
speotable in his Sunday coat that be should hard-
ly have known him) his wife, and their nu-
merous young family, drawing round their little
table, which was covered wiUi a clean, though
very coarse cloth. There stood on it a large
dish of potatoes, a brown pitcher, and a piece of
a coarse loaf. The wife and children stood in
silent attention, while the shepherd, with up-
lifted hands and eyes, devoutly begged the bles-
sing of heaven on their homely fare. Mr.
Johnson could not help sighing to reflect, that
he had sometimes seen better dinners eaten with
less appearance of thankfulness.

The shepherd and hb wife sat down with



Digitized by



Google



196



THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.



great seeming cheerfulness, but the children
stood ; and while the mother was helping- them,
little firesh-coloured Molly, who had picked the
wool from the bushes with so much delight,
cried out, * Father I wish I was big enough to
say grace, I am sure I should say it very hearti-
ly to-day, for I was thinking what must poor
people do who have no salt to their potatoes ;
and do but look, our dish is quite full.* — * That
is the true way of thinking, Molly,* said the
father; * in whatever concerns bodily wants and
bodily comforts, it is our duty to compare our
own lot with the lot of those who are worse ofF,
and will kepp us thankful : on the other hand,
whenever we are tempted to set up*our own
wisdom or goodness, we must compare ourselves
with those who are wiser and better, and that
will keep us humble.* Molly was now so hun-
gry, and found the potatoes so good, that she
had no time to make any more remarks ; but
was devouring her dinner very heartily, when
the barking of the great dog drew her attention
fh>m her trencher to the door, and spying the
stranger, she cried out, *Look father, see here,
if yonder is not the good gentleman !* Mr. John,
son finding himself discovered, immediately
walked in, and was heartily welcomed by the
honest shepherd, who told his wife that this was
the gentleman to whom they were so much
obUpd.

'Hie good woman began, as some very neat
people are rather apt to do, with making many
apologies that her house was not cleaner, and
that uings were not in a fitter order to receive
such a gentleman. Mr. Johnson, however, on
looking round, could discover nothing but the
most perfect neatness. The trenchers on which
they were eating, were ahnost as white as their
linen; and notwithstanding the number and
smaltness of the children, there was not the least
appearance of dirt or litter. The furniture was
very simple and poor, hardly indeed amounting
to bare necessaries. It consisted of four brown
wooden chairs, which by constant rubbing, were
become as bright as a looking-glass; an iron
pot and kettle; a poor old grate, which scarcely
held a handfbl of coal, and out of which the little
fire that had been in it appeared to have been
taken, as soon as it had answered the end for
which it had been lighted — that of boiling their
potatoes. Over the chimney stood an old-fashion-
ed broad bright candlestick, and a still brighter
spit ; it was pretty clear that this last was kept
rather for ornament than use. An old carved
elbow chair, and a chest of the same date, which
stood in the comer, were considered the most
valuable part of the Bhepherd*8 goods, having
been in his fiimily for three generations. But
all these were lightly esteemed by him, in com-
parison of another possession, which, added to
the above, made up the whole of what he had
inherited from his father ; and which last he
would not have parted with, if no other could
have been had, for the king*s ransom : this was
a .arge old Bible, which lay on the window-seat,
neatly covered with brown cloth, variously
patched. This sacred book was most reverently
preserved from dog's ears, dirt, and every other
injury, but such as time and muck use had
made it suffer in spite of care On the clean



white walls was pasted, i hymn on the CniCT
fixion of our Saviour, a print of the Frodiga'
Son, the Shepherd's Hymn, a iVeto History <^ a
True Book, and Patient Joe, or the Newcastle
Collier.»

Afler the first salutations were over, Mr.
Johnson said, that if they would go on with their
dinner he would sit down. Though a good deal
ashamed, they thought it more respectful to
obey the gentleman, who having cast his eye on
their slender provisions, genUy rebuked the
shepherd for not having indulged himself, as it
was Sunday, with a morsel of bacon to relish
his potatoes. The shepherd said nothing, but
poor Mary coloured and hung down her head,
saying, * Indeed, sir, it is not my fault, I did beg
my husband to allow himself a bit of meat to-
day out of your honour's bounty ; but he was
too good to do it, and it is all for my sake.' The
shepherd seemed unwilling to come to an expla-
nation, but Mr. Johnson desired Mary to go on.
So she continued : * You must know, sir, that
both of us, next to a sin, dread a debt, and in-
deed in some cases a debt is a sin ; but with all
onr care and pains, we have never been able
quite to pay off the doctor's bill for that bad fit
of rheumatism which I had last winter. Now
when you were pleased to give my husband that
kind present the other day, I heartily desired
him to buy a bit of meat for Sunday as I said
before, that he might have a little refreshment
for himself out of your kindness.-^* But answer-
ed he, * Mary, it is never out of my mind long
together that we still owe a few shillings to the
doctor (and thank €rod it is all we did owe in
the world.) Now if I carry him this money di-
rectly it will not only show him our honesty
and our good-will, but it will be an encourage
ment to him to come to you another time in case
you should be taken once more in such a bad
fit ; for I must own,' added my poor husband,
* that the thought of your being so terribly ill
without any help, is the only misfortune that I
want courage to face.'

Here the grateful woman's tears ran down so
fast that she could not go on. She wiped them
with the comer of her apron, and humbly beg
ged pardon for making so free. * Indeed, sir,
said the shepherd, * though my wifb is full nt
unwilling to be in debt as myself, yet I coulc
hardly prevail on her to consent to my paying
this money iust then, because she said it was
hard I should not have a taste of the gentle-
man*8 bounty myself. — But for once, sir, I would
have iny own way. For yon must know, as I
pass best part of my time ak>ne, tending my
sheep, 'tis a great point with me, sir, to get
comfortable matter for my own thoughts; so
that 'tis rather self-interest in me to allow my
self in no pleasures and no practices that wont
bear thinking on over and over. For when one
is a good deu alone, you know, sir, all one's bad
deeds do so rush in upon one, as I may say, and
so torment one, that there is no trae comfort to
be had but in keeping clear of wrong doings
and false pleasures ; and that I suppose may be
one reason why so many folks hate to stay a bit
by themselves. But as I was saying — ^when 1
came to think the nqatter over on the hill ymi-
* Printed for tbe Cheap Repoeitorv.



Digitized by



Google



THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORR



m



Itf, laid I to myself, a good dinner is a good
hjog I grant, and yet it will be but cold corn-
et to me a week afler, to be able to say — to be
4are I had a nice shoulder of mutton last Sun-
day fin* dinner, thanks to the ffood gentleman I
bat then I am in debt I had a rare dinner,
thafs certain, but the pleasure of that has long
been over, and the debt still remains. I have
spent the crown; and now if my poor wife
should be taken in one of tliose fits again, die
she must, unless God work a miracle to prevent
it, fi>r I can get no help for her. This thought
settled all ; tuid I set off directly and paid the
crown to the doctor with as much cheerfulness
as I should have felt on sitting down to the fat-
test shoulder pf mutton that ever was roasted.
And if I was contented at the time, think how
much more happy I have been at the remem-
brance ! O sir, there are no pleasures worth the
name but such as bring no plague or penitence
aAer them.'

Mr. Johnson was satisfied with the shepherd's
reasons ; and agreed that though a good dinner
was not to be despised, yet it was not worthy
to be compared with a contented mindy which (as
the Bible truly says) is a continual feast * But
come,' said the good gentleman, ' what have we
got in this brown mug 7* — * As jg^ood water,' said
the shepherd, * as any in the kmg's dominions.
I have heard of countries beyond sea, in which
there is no wholesome water ; nay, I have been
myself in a great town not far off, where they
are obliged to buy all the water which they get,
while a good Providence sends to my very door
a spring as clear and fine as Jacob's well. When
I am tempted to repine that I have oflen no
other drink, I call to mind, that it was nothing
better than a cup of cold water which the wo.
man at the weU of Sychar drew for the greatest
guest that ever visited this world.

' Very well,' replied Mr. Johnson ; * but as
your honesty has made you prefer a poor meal
to bein^ in debt, I will at least send and get
something for you to drink. I saw a little public
house just by the church, as I came along. Let
that little rosy .faced fellow fetch a mug of beer.'
So saying, he looked full at the boy, who did
not oner to stir ; but cast an eye at his father
to know what he was to do. * Sir,' said the
shepherd, * I hope we shall not appear ungrate-
fnl, if we seem to refuse your favour ; my little
body would, I am sure, fly to serve ^ou on any
other occasion. But, good sir, it is Sunday;
and should any of my family be seen at a public
boose on a Sabbath-day, it would be a much
greater grief to me than to drink water all my
file. I am oflen talking against these doings to
others ; and if I should sav one thing and do
another, jou can't think what an advantage it
would give many of my neighbours over me,
who would be glad enough to report that they
had caught the 6jepherd's son at the alehouse
without explaining how if. happened. Christians
you know, sir, must be doubly watchful ; or they
will not only bring disgrace on themselves, but
:yhat is much worse, on that holy name by
which they are called.*

' Are you not a little too cautious, my honest
friend 7* said Mr. Johnson. • I humbly ask your
pardon, sir,' replied the shepherd, * if I think



that is impossible. In my poor notion I no more
understand how a man can be too cautious, than
how he can be too strong, or too healthy.'

*you are right indeed,' said Mr. Johnson,
* as a general principle, but this struck me as a
very small thing.' — *Sir,' said the shepherd, •:.
am afraid yon will think me very bold, but you
encourage me to speak out' — * 'Tis what I
wish,' said the gentleman. *■ Then, sir,' resumed
the shepherd, * I doubt i^ where there is a fVo-
quent temptation to do wrong, B.ny fault can be
called small; that is, in short, if"^ there is any
such thing as a small wilful sin. A poor man
like me is seldom called out to do great things,
so that it is not by a few striking deeds his
character can be iudjred by his neighbours, but
by the little round of daily customs he allows
himself in.'

* I should like,* said Mr. Johnson, * to know
how you manage in this respect'

* I am but a poor scholar, sir* replied the shep-
herd, * but I have made myself a little sort of
rule. I always avoid, as I am an ignorant man,
picking out any one single difficult text to dis-
tress my mind about, or to go and build opinions
upon, because I know that puzzles and injures
poor unlearned Christians. But I endeavour to
collect what is the general spirit or meaning of
Scripture on any particular subject, bj -putting
a few texts together, which though I find them
dispersed up and down, yet all seem to look the
same way, to prove the same truth, or hold out
the same comfort So when I am tried or tempt-
ed, or any thing happens in which I am at a
loss what to do, I apply to my rule — to the late
and the testimony, To^be sure I can't always
find a particular direction as to the very case,
because then the Bible must have been bigger
than all those groat books I once saw in the li-
brary at Salisbury palace, which the butler told
me were acts of parliament ; and had that i>een
the case, a poor man would never have had mo-
ney to buy, nor a working man time to read the
Bible ; and so Christianity could only have been
a religion for the rich, for those who had money
and leisure ; which, blessed be God ! is so fkr
from being the truth, that in all that fine dis-
course of our Saviour to John's disciples, it is
enough to reconcile any poor man in the world
to his low condition, to observe, when Christ
reckons up the things for which he came on
earth, to observe, I say, what he keeps for last
Go tell John, says he, those things which ye do
hear and see; the blind receive their sights and
the lame toatk, the lepers are cleansed, and the
deaf hear, and the dead are raised up. Now,
air, all these are wonders to be sure, ^)ut they
are nothing to what follows. They are but like
the lower rounds of a ladder, as I may say, by
which you mount to the top—- «nrf the poor have
the Gospel preached to them. I dare say, if John
had any doubts before, this part of the message
must have cleared them up at once. For it must
have made him certain sure at once, that a reli-
gion which placed preaching salvation to the
poor above healing the sick, which ranked the
soul above the body, and set heaven above health,
must have come from God.'

*But,' said Mr. Johnson, •you say you can
generally pick out your particular duty from



Digitized by



Google



198



THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.



the Bible, though that immediate duty be not
fully explained.*

'Indeed, sir,* replied the shepherd, *I think
I can find out the principle at least, if I bring
but a willing mind. The want of that is the
great hindrance. Wkoso doeth my toill^he $hall
inow of the doctrine. You know that text, sir.
I believe a stubborn will makes the Bible harder
to be understood than ajiy want of learning.
*Tis cocrupt afiections which blind the under-
standing, sir. The more a man hates sin, the
clearer he will see his way, and the more he
loves holiness, the better he will understand his
Bible — the more practical conviction will he get
of that pleasant truth, that the secret of the Lord
is with them that fear him. Now, sir, suppose
I had time and learning, and possessed of all
the books I saw at the bishop's, where could I
find out a surer way to lay the axe to the root
of all covetousness, selfishness, and injustice,
than the plain and ready rule, to do unto all men
'js J would they should do unto me. If m^ neigh-
bour does me an injury, can I be at any loss
how to proceed with him, when I recollect the
parable of the unforgiving steward, who refused
to pardon a debt of a hundred pence, when his
own ten thousand talents had been remitted^to
him) I defy any man to retain habitual selfish-
neaa, hardness of heart, or any other allowed
sin, who daily and conscientiously tries his own
heart by this touchstone. The straight ru!e
will show the crooked practice to every one who
honestly tries the one by the other.*

* Why you seem to make Scripture a thing of
general application,* said Hr. Jolmston, * in cases
in which many, I fear do not apply.'

' It applies to erery thing, sir,* replied the
shephetd. ' When those men who are now dis-
turbing the peace of the world, and trying to
destroy the confidence of God's children in &eir
Maker and their Saviour ; when those men, I
say, came to my poor hovel with their new doc
triries and their new books, I would never look
into one of tliem ; tor I remember it was the
first sin of the first pait to lose their innocence
for the sake of a iitlle wicked knowledge ; be-
sides, my own book told me — To fear God and
honour the king — To meddle not with them who
are given to change — Not to speak evil of digni-
ties — To render honour to whom honour is due.
So that I was furnished with a little coat of mail,
as I may say, which preserved me, while those
who had no such armour fell into the snare.*

While they were thus talking, the children
who had stood very quietly behind, and had not
stirred a f(K)i,now began to scamper about all at
once, ami in a moment ran to the window-scat
to pick up their little old hats. Mr. Johnson
looked surprised at this disturbance ; the shep-
herd asked his pardon, telling him it was the
sound of the church bell which had been the
caiise of their rudeness ; for their mother had
broaijht them up with such a fear of being too
late fur church, that it was but who could catch
the first stroke of the bell, and be first ready.
lie hud always taugrht them to tliink that no-
thing was more indecent than to get into church
after it was begun ; for as the service opened
with an exhortation to repentance, and a con-
cession of sin, it looked very presumptuous not



to be ready to join it; it looxed as if people did
not feel themselves to be sinners. And though
such as lived at a great distance might plead
difiTerence of clocks as an excuse, yet Qiose who
lived within the sound of the bell, could pretend
neither ignorance nor mistake.

Mary and her children set fbr^vard. Mr.
Johnson and the shepherd followed, taking care
to talk the whole way on such subjects as might
fit them for the solemn duties of the place to
which they were going. * I have often been
sorry to observe, said Mr. Johnson, * that many
who are reckoned decent, good kind of people,
and who would on no account neglect going to
church, yet seem to care but little in what frame
or temper of mind they go thither. They will
talk of their worldly concerns till they get within
the door, and then take them up asrain the very
minute the sermon is over, which makes me
ready to fear they lay too much stress on the
mere form of going to a place of worship. Now,
for my part, I always find that it requires a little
time to bring my mind into a state fit to do any
common business well, much more this great and
most necessary business of all.* — * Yes, sir,* re-
plied the shepherd ; * and then I think too how
busy I should be in preparing my mind, if I
were going into the presence of a great gentle-
man, or a lord, or the king ; and shall the King
of kings bo treated with less respect 7 Besides,
one likes to see people feel as if going to church
was a thing of choice and pleasure, as well as a
duty, and that they were as desirous not to be •
the last there, as they would be if they were
going to a feast or a fair.*

Attcr service, Mr. Jenkins the dergyman,
who was well acquainted with the character of
Mr. Johnson, and had a great respect for him,
accosted him with much civility ; expressing"
his concern that he could not enjoy just now so
much of his conversation as he wished, as he
was obliged to visit a sick person at a distance,
but hoped to have a little talk with him before
he lefl the village.. As they walked alcmg to-
gether, Mr. Johnson made such inquiries about
the shepherd, as served to confirm him in the
high opinion he entertained of his piety, good
sense, industry, and self-denial. 7*hey parted ;
the clergyman promising to call in at the cottage
in his way home.

The shepherd, who took it for granted that
Mr. Johnson was gone to the parsonage, walked
home with his wife and children, and was be-
ginning in his usual way to catechise and instruct
his family, when' Mr. Johnson came in, and in-
sisted that the shepherd should go on with his
instractions just as if he were not there. This
gentIeman,who was very desirous of being useful
to his own servants and workmen in the way of
religious instruction, was sometimes sorry to
find that though he took a good deal of pains,
they now and then did not quite understand
him ; (or though his meaning was very good,
his language was not always very plain ; and
though the things he said were not hard to be
understood, yet the words were, especially to
such as were very igfnorant And he now he^an
to find out that if people were ever so wi»o and
good, yet if they had not s simple, agreeable,
and familiar way of expressing themselves, some



Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 43 of 135)