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children, three of whom died in their infancy. Miranda; the youngest, who was the only one that lived to years of maturity, was so named at the earnest desire of her mother, because Miranda was the name of an imaginary character in a book of devotion which Mrs. Barnwell had read with great pleasure. This lady died of a consumption, when her daughter was in her thirteenth year. She was a pious gentlewoman, and had taken much pains to instill the principles of religion into the tender mind of her child. A more than ordinary vivacity and liveliness of temper, together with a turn for company and amusements, caused her to profit but little from her mother's instruction; but she was the darling of her father, who thought he saw every part of his own image impressed on his daughter.
Mr. Barnwell was of the church of England, but thought it the duty of every person to remain where he was brought up. He looked upon dissenters, whom he termed sectaries, as a wrongheaded people: however, their continuing of the same sentiments with their parents he considered rather as their misfortune than as their fault. But with regard to those runagates, as he called them, who left the established church, he thought them beneath contempt; and would sometimes say, and even swear, that if he had been brought up a Turk or a Jew, he would not have changed his religion. He would observe, that it was of no importance what a man believed, but that practice was every thing, and would often quote those lines of Pope,
For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
His can't be wrong, whose life is in the right.
Of all the productions of the press, none pleased Mr. Barnwell better than the drama. Here, he would say, we see the world in miniature, and find virtue and vice painted in their proper colours. He was also fond of promoting the representation of plays among the young persons in his neighbourhood for he considered the stage as the properest place to form the manners of youth. He obser
ved that there they gained a graceful attitude, an easy carriage, a becoming confidence, and a just pronunciation.
Miss Barnwell needed no incitement to things of this kind, as they were quite agreeable to the natural bent of her inclination. Yet, in the midst of all these pursuits, she received many checks from conscience, which, like an unwelcome visitant, would be oft intruding. The divine maxims which had been early inculcated by her pious mother, would frequently furnish matter for conviction. At such times she made many resolutions, that God should have some part at least of her time and affections. These promises being made through constraint, it is needless to say that they were very badly kept.
She was about nineteen years of age, when, as she was looking over her mother's library, she accidentally took down a quarto Bible, and, opening it, found a quarter of a sheet of paper pinned to one of the leaves, which her mother had written, as appeared by the date, but two days before her death. It contained the following words:
Miranda, my dear child, the child of many prayers! I am going into the presence of my dear Redeemer, where I have no doubt but I shall meet with a happy reception, as in him only has been my confidence. But alas, my love, I fear I am taking a long, an everlasting farewell of you and your poor father. A great and impassable gulf must forever separate us, unless God in his mercy should cause you, my dear child, to make this book your bosom friend, your daily companion. The words which it contains are the words of God. Pray over every sentence. Here only can you learn what he is; what you are; what you are capable of being in this world, through his word and Spirit; and what both the righteous and the wicked will be during a long eternity. Farewell. Upon reading this paper, Miss Barnwell shed floods of tears. The dread that her dear mother's words should prove prophetical, and that she should indeed never see her any more, made a deep impression on her mind; and she made many vows and resolutions, that for the future
she would be a new creature, and entirely devoted to God and to his service. She appointed set times for prayer, and for reading the Scriptures, earnestly imploring the Majesty of heaven and earth to second her good endeavours. But notwithstanding all her vigilance, she discovered so many defects in herself, arising either from the omission of duty, the commission of sin, or that propensity which she had to vain company and trifling amusements, that her heart frequently sank under the burden. She was loath to go backward; yet numberless disappointments and broken resolutions made her despair of getting forward. Instead of the ways of God being an easy yoke, and a light burden, she thought them the hardest yoke, and the heaviest burden.
An elderly gentleman, named Clifford, frequently visited at the house of Mr. Barnwell. He was a person who seemed to aim at being taken notice of in the world, by pretending to doubt of every thing; and though, according to his own sentiments, he had no certainty of being right yet no one could appear fonder of gaining proselytes. The design of his pretended doubtings being to discredit divine revelation, he would take every opportunity to affirm, that Moses and the Prophets, together with Christ and his Apostles, were impostors. Yea, upon occasion, this doubter could demonstrate, that a miracle had not been wrought since the creation of the world, if by the way it were created, which was also matter of doubt with him.
It was the misfortune of Miss Barnwell to fall into the hands of this doubting, positive gentleman. He took an opportunity to give the conversation a religious turn, and began with showing, that every religion had its origin in the invention of some legislator, or priest, or both; and that Christianity was an engine of the state. He then endeavoured to prove, that men of liberal sentiments had always looked upon these things with contempt, they being only calculated for the meridian of the vulgar. What, cried he, do you think of the speaking of Balaam's ass.; or of Samson's throwing down a temple by mere strength;
or of his carrying the gates of Gaza? Miss Barnwell replied that she had not sufficiently considered those things to be able to defend them. She soon, however, retired to her closet, when the poison which had been poured into her ear began to operate. She fully assented to the doc. trine of her new teacher, and furnished herself with the following additional proof of there being no reality in religion. I have, said she to herself, both fasted, prayed, and watched, and taken every method to become religious, and all to no purpose; for while I have been engaged in this fruitless toil, I have resembled the fabled Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a stone up hill, which continually returned upon him.
How glad was this young lady to be loosed from those restraints and fears, which she now thought were only fit to intimidate the vulgar. Like a deer escaped from the huntsman, she determined once more to mix with the herd, and to enjoy her former pleasures and her ease again. She made the trial: pleasure and a round of dissipation were the only objects of her pursuit: but she soon discovered that this plaister would not cover the sore. At many times she would cry out, O what a wretch am I! Without a God; without hope of immortality! My utmost wish is to die like a beast, without the poor expectation of living one thousandth part so happily! If I had the wealth of the Indies in my possession, I would part with it all to be a snake or a toad! At other times she would reflect that she must now either openly avow herself to be an infidel, or put on the mask of hypocrisy, and pretend to be what she was not, which last she could not bear to think of. I must never, she would say, alter my condition, nor impose such a wretch on any man for a wife. Besides, how, or in what manner, could I instruct my children? I am all doubt and uncertainty. If there be a God, I have no knowledge of him. I neither know for what end I came into the world, nor what will become of me when I go out of it.
In this deplorable state of mind she continued more than half a year, neither looking into any books calculated
to satisfy her doubts, nor conversing with any person for that purpose. The attempts she had made to be religious without success, were, in her esteem, proofs equal to a demonstration, that all religions consisted of nothing but priestcraft, and that the precepts of Christianity were a collection of impossibilities which no one could perform.
This disorder of her mind affected her in such a manner, that she was no longer the same. There is so intimate a connexion between the soul and body, that one cannot suffer without the other. Miss Barnwell had hitherto enjoyed an extraordinary share of health: but now the roses withered in her cheeks; her sprightliness forsook her, and nothing was left but a melancholy dejection and lowness of spirits. The Miss Nevilles, and several of her young acquaintance, visited her, and endeavoured to remove that pensiveness which brooded upon her countenance; but the medicines which they used were unfit for her disease. Mr. Barnwell, whose very life was wrapped up in that of his daughter, was exceedingly alarmed, and called in the assistance of the faculty; but all they could prescribe was of no use.
Mrs. Worthington, the sister of Mrs. Barnwell, was at this time upon a visit at her brother-in-law's. Since the death of her husband, she had resided at a house which she had at Islington. She was a very religious gentlewoman, of the Independent denomination. She was brought up in the church of England; but having married a dissenter, she chose to accompany her husband to the meeting; at first out of complaisance, but afterwards from principle. Mrs. Worthington endeavoured for some time to find out the cause of her niece's disorder, without effect; but that which she had so long sought for in vain, she at last discovered in the following manner. She had oft observed her to walk for an hour or two together in a retired part of the garden; and as her anxious desire to become acquainted with, and if possible to remove the cause of her niece's indisposition, whatever it might be, excited her narrowly to watch every part of