Hannah More.

The complete works of Hannah More online

. (page 53 of 135)
Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 53 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to the ale4iouse, till that which was at first a
refuge too soon became a pleasure.

Rebecca never wished her children to learn
to read, because she said it would only serve to
make them lazy, and she herself had done very
wtbU without it She would keep poor Hester
from church to stone the space under the stairs
in fine patterns and flowers. I don*t pretend to
say there was any harm in this little decoration,
it looks pretty enough, and it is better to let the
children do that than nothing. But still these
are not things to set one*s heart upon ; and be-
sides Rebecca only did it as a trap for praise ;
for she was sulky and disappointed if any ladies
happened to call in and did not seem delighted
with the flowers which she used to draw with a
burnt stick on the whitewash of the chimney
comers. Besides all this finery was often done
on a Sunday, and there is a great deal of harm
in doing right things at a wrong time, or in
wasting much time on things which are of no
real use, or in doin? any thing at all out of va-
nity. Now I beg that no lazy slattern of a wife
will go and take any comfort in her dirt fVom
what is here said against Rebecca's nicety ; for
I believe, that for one who makes her husband
snhappy through neatness, twenty do so by dirt
and laziness. All excuses are wrong, but the
excess of a good quality is not so common as the
excess of a bad one ; and not being so obvious,
perhaps, for that very reason requires more ani-

John Wilmot was not an ill-natured man, but
he had no fixed principle. Instead of setting
himself to cure his wife's faults by iHild reproof
and good example, he was driven by them into
still greater faults himself. It is a common case
with people who have no religion when any cross
accident befals tliem, instead of trying to make
the best of a bad matter, instead of considering
their trouble as a trial sent from God to purify
them, or instead of considering the fiiults of
others as a punishment for their own sins, in-
stead of this I say, what do they do, but either
sink down at once into despair, or else run for
comfort into evil courses. Drinking is the com-
mon remedy for sorrow, if that can be called a
remedy, the end of which is to destroy sonl and
body. John now began to spend all his leisure
hours at the Bell. He used to be fond of his chil-
dren : but when he could not come home in quiet,
and play with the litlle ones, while his wife
dressed him a bit of hot supper, he grew in time

not to come home at all. He ^ho has onoe
taken to drink can seldom be said to be ffuilty
of one sin only ; John's heart became hardened.
His affection for his family was lost in self-in-
dulgence. Patience and submission, on the p&rt
of the wife, might have won much upon a man
of John's temper ; but instead of trying to re-
claim him, his wife seemed rather to delight in
putting him as much in the wrong as she could,
that she might be iustified in her constant abuse
of him. I doubt whether she would have been as
much pleased with his reformation as she was
with always talking of his faults, though I know
it was the opinion of the neighbours, that if she
had taken as much pains to reform her husband
by reforming her own temper, as she did to
abuse him and expose him, her endeavours
might have been blessed with success. Good
Christians, who are trying to subdue their own
faults, can hardly believe that the ungodly have
a sort of savage satisfaction in trying, by indul-
gence of their own evil tempers, to lessen the
happiness of those with whom they have to da
Need we look any farther for a proof of our own
corrupt nature, when we see mankind delight in
sins which have neither the temptation of profit
or the allurement of pleasure, such as plaguing,
vexing, or abusing each other.

Hester was the eldest of their five children
she was a sharp sensible girl, but at fourteen
years old she could not tell a letter, nor had she
ever been taught to how her knee to Him who
made her, for John's or rather Rebecca's house,
had seldom the name of God pronounced in it,
except to be blasphemed.

It was just about this time, if I mistake not,
that Mrs. Jones set up her Sunday-school, of
which Mrs. Betty Crew was appointed mistress,
as has been before related. Mrs. Jones finding
that none of the Wilmots were sent to school,
took a walk to Rebecca's house, and civilly told
her, she called to let her know that a school was
opened, to which she desired her to send her
children on Sunday following, especially her
eldest daughter Hester. * Well,' said Rebecca,

* and what will you give her if I do ?' * Give
her !' replied Mrs. Jones, * that is rather a rude
question, and asked in a rude manner : how-
ever, as a sofl answer turneth away wrath, I
assure you that I will give her the best of learn-
ing ; I will teach her to fear God and keep Mm
eommandmentsJ' *I would rather you would
teach her to fear mo, and keep my house clean,'
said this wicked woman. *She shan't come,
however, unless you will pay her for it' * Pay
her for it !' said the lady, • will it not be reward
enough that she will be taught to read the word
of God without any expense to y6u 7 For though
many gifls both of books and clothing will be
given the children, yet you are not to consider
Uiose gifls so much in the light of payment as
an expression of good will in your benefactors.'

* I say,' interrupted Rebecca, * that Hester shan't
go to school. Religion is of no use that I know
of but to make people hate their own fle^h and
blood ; and I see no good in learning but to
make folks proud, and lazy, and dirty. I cannot
tell a letter myself, and, though I say it, that
should not say it, there is. not a notabler woman
in the parish.' • Prav.' said Mrs. Jones mildly

Digitized by




do ' yon thine that young people will disobey
their parents the more for being taught to fear
God 7* • I don't think any thing about it,' said
Rebecca; * I shan't let her come, and thel-e's the
long and short of the matter. Hester has other
fish to fry ; but you may have some of these lit-
tle n* 68 if you will :' * No,' said Mrs. Jones,
' X will not ; I have not set up a nursery, but a
school. I am not at all this expense to take cry-
ing babes out of the mother's way, but to in-
struct reasonable beings in the road to eternal
life ; and it ought to m a rule in all schools not
to take the tronblesome young children unless
the mother will try to spare the elder ones, who
are capable of learning.' * But,' said Rebecca,
* I have a young child which Hester must nurse
while I dress £nner. And she must iron the
rags, and scour the irons, and dig the potatoes,
and fetch the water to boil them.* * As to nurs-
ing the child, that is indeed a necessary duty,
and Hester ought to stay at home part of the
day to enable yoo to go to church ; and families
should relieve each oth^r in this way, but as to
all the rest they are no reasons at all, for the
irons need not be scoured so ollen, and the rags
•boold be ironed, and the potatoes dug, and the
water fetched on the Saturday ; and f can tell

50U that neither your minister here, nor your
ndge hereafter, will accept of any sucji ex-

All thu while Hester staid behind pale and
trembling, lest her unkind mother should carry
her point She looked op at Mrs. Jones with so
much love and gratitude, as to win her affection,
and this good lady went on trying to soften this
harsh mother. At last Rebecca condescended
to say, * Well I don't know but I may let her
come now and then when I can spare her, pro-
vided I find you make it worth her while.' All
this time she had never asked Mrs. Jones to
sit down, nor had once bid her young children
be quiet, though they were crying and squalling
the whole time. Rebecca fancied this rudeness
was the only way she had of showing she thought
herself to be as good as her guest, but Mrs.
Jones never lost h^ temper. The moment she
wont oat of the house, Rebecca called out loud
enough for her to hear, and ordered Hester to
get ihe stone and a bit of sand to scrub out the
prints of that dirty woman'a shoes. Hester in
hig-n spirits cheerfully obeyed, and rubbed out
the «iaias so neatly, that her mother could not
help lamenting that so handy a girl was going
to b« epoiled, by being taught godliness, and
learning any such nonsense.

Mr*?. Jones who knew the world, told her
■gerit Mrs. Crew, that her grand difficulty would
vift; ikiA eo much from the children as the pa-
rec'f . These, said she, are apt to fall into that
saci .rastako, that because their children are
poor, jiud have a little of tiiis world's eoods, the
mothers must miko it up to them in false indul-
gent «. The children of the gentry are much
more reproved and corrected for their faults, and
bred up in far stricter discipline. He was a
king who said. Chasten thy son, and let not thy
rod Mpare for Ais cryincr. But do not lose your
patience ; the more vicious the children are, you
most remember the more they stand in need of
TOOT inatroetion. When they are bad, comfort

yourself with Ihiukinff how much worse they
would have been but for you ; and what a bur
den they would become to society if these evi^
tempers were to receive no check. The great
thing which enabled Mrs. Crew to teach well,
was the deep insight she had sat into the corrup-
tion of human nature. And I ooubt if any one can
make a thoroughly good teacher of religion and
morals, who wants the master-key to the heart
Others indeed may teach knowledge, decency,
and good manners ; but those, however valuable,
are not Christianity. Mrs. Crew, who knew
that out of the heart proceed lying, thefl, and
all that train of evils which begin to break out
even in young children, applied her labours to
correct this root of evil. But though a diligent,
she was a humble teacher, we|l knowing that
unless the grace of God blessed her labours, she
should but labour in vain.

Hestor Wilroot never failed to attend the
school, whenever her perverse mother would
give her leave, and her delight in learning was
so great, that she would work early and late to
gain a little time for her book. As she had a
quick capacity, she learned soon to spell and
read, and Mrs. Crew observing her diligence,
used to lend her a book to carry home, that she
might pick up a little at odd times. It would
be well if teachers would make this distinction.
To give, or lend books to those who take no de-
li^ht in them is an useless expense ; while it ia
kmd and right to assist well-disposed young peo-
ple with every help of this sort Those whc
love books seldom hurt them, while the slothful
who hate learning, will wear out a book more
in a week, than the diligent will do in a year.
Hester's way was to read over one question in
her catechism, or one verse in her hymn book^
by fire-light before she went to bod ; this site
thought over in the night ; and when she was
dressing herself in the morning, she was gkd
to find she always knew a little more than she
had done the morning before. It is not to be
believed how much those people will be found
to have gained at the end of the year, who arc
accustomed to work up all the little odd ends
and remnants of leisure ; who value time even
more than money ; and who are convinced that
minutes are no more to be wasted than pence.
Nay, he who finds he has wasted a shilling may
by diligence hope to fetch it up again ; but no
repentance or industr.y can ever bring back one
wasted hour. My good young reader, if ever
you are tempted to waste an hour, go and ask a
dying man what he would give for that hour
which you arc throwing away, and according as
he answers so do you act

As her mother hated the sight of a book, Hes-
ter was forced to learn out of sight : it was no
disobedience to do this, f^ long as she wasted no
part of that time which it was her duty to spend
in useful labour. She would have thought it a
sin to have left her work for her book ; but she
<iid not think it wrong to steal time from her
sleep, and to be learning an hour before the rest
of the ramily were awake. Hester would not
neglect the washinsr-tab, or the spinning-wheel,
even to get on with her catechisrn ; but she
thought it fair to think over her questions, while
the was washing and spinning, in a few months

Digitized by




«ho was able to read fluently in St John's Gos.
pel, which is tlie easiest. But Mrs. Crew did
not think it enou^^h that her children could read
a chapter, she would make them understand it
ilso. It is in a good decree owin^ to the want
of religious knowledge in teachers, that there is
so little religion in the world. Unless the Bible
*s laid open to the understanding, children may
read from Genesis to the Revelation, without
any other improvement than barely learning
how to pronounce the words. Mrs. Crew found
there was but one way to compel their attention ;
this was by obliging them to return back again
to her the sense of what she had read to them,
and this thoy might do in their own words, if
*bey could not remember the words of Scrip-
ture. Those who had weak capacities would,
ti be sure, do this but very imperfectly ; but
even the weakest, if they were willing, would
retain sonietiiing. She so managed that saying
the catechism was not merely an act of the me-
mory, but of the understanding : for she hadob-
bervcd formerly that those who had learned the
Catechism in the common formal way, when
they were children, bad never understood it
when they became men and women, and it re-
mained in the memory withotil having made
any impression on the mind. Thus this fine
summary of the Christian religion is considered
as little more than' a form of words, the being
able to repeat which, is a qualification for being
confirmed by the bishop, mstead of being con-
sidered as really contaming those grounds of
Christian faith and practice, by which they are
tc be confirmed Christians.

Mrs. Crew used to say to Mrs. Jones, those
who teach the poor must indeed give line upon
line, precept upon precept, here a little and there
a little, as they can receive it So that teaching
must be a great grievance to those who do not
really make it a labour of love, I see so mnch
levity, obstinacy, and ignorance, that it keeps
my own forbearance in continual exercise, inso-
much that I trust I am getting good myself,
while I am doin^ good to others. No one, ma-
dam, can know till they try, that afler they have
asked a poor untaught child the same question
nineteen times, they must not lose their temper,
but go on and ask it the twentieth. Now and
then, when I am tempted to be impatient, I cor-
rect myself by thinking over that active proof
which our blessed Saviour requires of our love
to him when he says. Feed my lambs.

Hester VVilmot had never been bred to go to
church, for her father and mother had never
thought of going themselves, unless at a chris-
tening in their own family, or at a funeral of
their neighbours, both of which they considered
merely as opportunities for good eating and
drinking, and not as offices of religion.

As poor Hester had no comfort at home, it
was the less wonder she delighted in her school,
her Bible, and her church ; for so great is God's
goodricss, that he is pleased to make religion a
peculiar comfort to those who have no other
comfort The (5od whose name she had seldom
heard but when it was taken in cain, was now
revealed to her as a God of infinite power, jus-
tice, and holiness. What she read in her Bible,
and what she felt in her own heart, convinced

her she was a smner, and her catechism laid
the same. She was much distressed one day
on Uiinking over this promise which she had
just made (in answer to the question which fell
to her lot) To renounce the devil and all his
works^ the pomps and vanities of this wicked
VDorldy and all the sinful lusts of the flesh, I
say she was distressed on finding that these
were not merely certain words which she was
bound to repeat, but certain conditions which
she was bound to perform. She was sadly pux-
zled to know how this was to be done, till she
met with these words in her Bible : My grace
is sufficient for thee. But still she was at a loss
to know how this grace was to be obtained.
Happily Mr. Simpson preached on the next Sun-
day from this text, Ask and ye shall receive^ Sec
In this sermon was explained to her the nature,
the duty, and the efficacy of prayer. Afler this
she opened her heart to Mrs. Crew, who taught
her the great doctrines of Scripture, in a serious
but plain way. Hester's own heart led her to
assent to that humbling doctrine of the catechism,
that We are by nature bom in sin ; and truly
glad was she to be relieved by hearing of Thai
spiritual grace by uhich we have a new birth
unto righteousness. Thus her mind was no
sooner humbled by one part than it gained com-
fort from another. Oa the other hand, while
she was rejoicing in a lively hope in God*s mer-
cy through Christy her mistress put her in mind
that that was only the true repentance by which
we forsake sin. Thus the catechism, explained
by a pious teacher, was found to contain all the
articles of the Christian faith,

Mrs. Jones greatly disapproved the practice
of turning away the scholars because they were
grown up. Young people, said she, want to be
warned at sixteen more than they did at six,
Bi\d they are commonly turned adrift at the very
age when they want most instruction ; when
dangers and temptations most beset them. They
are exposed to more evil by the leisure of a Sun-
day evening than by the business of a whole
week : but then religion must be made pleasant,
and instruction roust be carried on in a kind,
and agreeable, and familiar way. If they once
dislike the teacher they will soon get to dislike
what is taught, so that a master or mistress is
in some measure answerable for the future piety
of young persons, inasmuch as that piety de
pends on their manner of making religion plea
sant as well as profitable.

To attend Mrs. Jones's evening instructions
was soon thought not a task but a holiday. In
a few months it was reckoned a disadvantage
to the character of any young person in the pa-
rish to know that they did not attend the even-
ing school. At first, indeed, many of them canM
only with a view to learn amusement ; but, by
the blessing of God, they grew fond of instruc-
tion, and some of them became truly pious.
Mrs. Jones spoke to them on Sunday evening
as follows : — * My dear young women, I rejoice
at your improvement ; but I rejoice with trem-
bling. I have known yoang people set out well,
who aflerwards fell ofl^ The heart is deceitful.
Many like religious knowledge, who do not like
tlie strictness of a religious liib. I nmst there-
fore watch whether those who are diligent at

Digitized by




eoarcfa and icbool, are diligent in their daily
walk. Whether those who say they believe in
God, really obey him. Whether they who pro-
fess to love Christ keep his commandmerOs,
Thorn who hear themselves commended for
early piety» may learn to rest satisfied with the
praise of man. People majr get a knack at re.
ligious i^raaes without being religions; they
may even get to frequent places of worship as
an amusement, in order to meet their friends,
and may learn to delight in a sort of spiritual
gossipy while religion has no power in their
hearts. But I hope better things of you, and
things that accompany salvation, though I thus

What became of Hester Wilmot, with some
acconnt of Mrs. Joneses May-day feast fer her
school, my readers shall be told next month.


The New Gown,

Hbstkr Wilmot, I am sorry to observe, had
been by nature peevish, and lazy ; she would
when a child, now and then slight her work,
and when her mother was unreasonable she was
too apt to return a saucy answer ; but when she
became ecquainted with her own heart, and with
the Scriptures, these evil tempers were, in a good
measure, subdued, for she now learnt to imitate,
not her violent mother, but him who was meek
tttid lowHy. When she was scolded fer doing ill,
•he prayed for grace to do better ; and the only
answer she made to her mother's charge, * that
religion only served to make people lazy,' was
to sy-ive to do twice as much work, in order to
prove that really made them diligent The only
thing in which she ventured to disobey her mo-
ther was, that when she ordered her to do week
day^s work on a Sunday, Hester cried, and said,
she did not dare to disobey God ; but to show
that she did not wish to save her own labour,
she would do a double portion of work on the
Saturday night, and rise two hours earlier on
Monday morning.

Once, when she had worked very hard, her
mother told her she would treat her with a holy,
day the fellowing Sabbath, and take her a fine
walk to eat cakes and drink ale at Weston (air,
which, though it was professed to be kept on the
Monday, yet, to the disgrace of the village, al-
ways began on the Sonday evening.* Rebecca,
WW) would on no account have wasted the Mon-
day, which was a working day, in idleness and
pl^ore, thought she had a very good right to
enjoy herself at the fair on the Sunday evening,
as well as to take her children. Hester earnest-
ly begged to be left at home*, and her mother in
a rage went without her. A wet walk, and
mere ale than she was used to drink, pive Re-
becca a dangerous fever. — During this illness

*71ii8 practice is too commoo. Those feirs which
profits to be kept on Monday, commonly b^n on the
Bunday. It 10 much to be wi«hed that magistrates would
put a stop to it, as Mr. Simpson did at Weston, at tiio
request of Mrv. Jones. There is another great evil worth
the notice of justices. In many villaces, durina the fair,
al« is sold at private bouses, which have no license, to
tile great injury of sobriety and good moralf.

Hester, who would not follow her to a scene of
dissolute mirth, attended her night and day, and
denied herself necessaries that her sick mother
might have comferts : and though she secretly

S rayed to God that this sickness might change
er mother's heart, yet she never once reproach,
ed her, or put her in mind, that it was caught
by indulging in a sinful pleasure.

Another Sunday night her father told Hester,
ho thouffht she bad now been at school long
-enough lor him to have a little good of her learn,
ing, so he desired she would &tay at home and
read to him. Hester cheerfully ran and fetched
her Testament But John fell a laughing, call-
ed her a fool, and said, it would be time enough
to read the Testament to him when he was go*
inff to die, but at present he must have some-
thmg merry. ^ saying, he gave her a song
book which he had picked up at the Bell. Hester
having cast her eyes over it, refused to read it,
saying she did not dare offend God by reading
what would hurt her own soul. — John called
her a canting hjrpocrite; and said, he would
put the Testament into the fire for that there
was not a more merry girl than she was before
she became religious.^Her mother for once took
her part, not because she thought her daughter
in the right, but because she was glad of any
pretence to show her husband was in the wrong ,
though she herself would have abused Hester
for the same thing if John had taken her part '
John, with a shocking oath abused them bNoth ;
and went off in a violent passion. — Hester, in-
stead of saying one tzndutiful word against her
father, took up a Psalter in order to teach ner
little sisters ; but Rebecca was so provoked at
her fer not joining her in her abuse of her hus-
band, that she changed her humour, said John
was in the right, and Hester a perverse hypo-
crite, who only made religion a pretence for
being undutiful to her parents. Hester bore all
in silence, and committed her cause to Him who
judgeth righteously. It would have been a great
comfort to her if she had dared to go to Mrs.
Crew, and to have joined in the religious exer-
cises of the evening at school. But her mother
refused to let her, saying it would only harden
her heart in mischief. Hester said not a word,
but after having put the little ones to bed, and
heard them say their prayers out of sight, she
went and sat down in her own little loft, and
said to herself, it would be pleasant to me to
have taught my little sisters to read, I thought
it was my duty, for David has said. Come ve
children hearken unto me, I toill teach you ths

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 53 of 135)