« PreviousContinue »
RICHARD Boyle, the first Earl of Cork, rose from a comparatively private station in life to a large share of wealth and honour, and his sense of obligation for this prosperity to a source above all that is human, was marked in the motto which he selected, as expressive of his circumstances in life, and which he ordered to be placed on his tomb :- :-“God's providence is my inheritance.” He married, in 1603, Catherine, the only daughter of Sir Geoffry Fenton, Principal Secretary of State for Ireland, to whose worth he bore the most honourable testimony, speaking of her as “the crown of all his blessings." This excellent lady became the mother of a large family. Two of these have drawn around themselves an interest which is still deep and strong, notwithstanding the long period, which has elapsed since they ceased to sojourn in this world of sin and change. The Honourable Robert Boyle was the seventh son, and Mary Countess of Warwick was the seventh daughter. The former must be regarded as furnishing one of the most impressive examples of the consecration of philosophy and genius to the cause of God and Christianity. The life of the latter presents an instructive instance of the combination of sincere piety with exalted rank, exhibiting the possibility of such an union, and the reciprocal influence and advantage which must be the result; spiritual religion conferring an additional grace on all that is attractive in outward dignity, and this elevation, at the same time, affording to true religion a wide scope, and most favourable opportunities for its influence and exercise.
There was a period, and, from her own confession, it was protracted until some years after her marriage, in which her views of her duty to God, and of the claims of Jesus on her regard, were very different from those which she was subsequently induced
entertain. Though instructed in the great truths of Christianity from her youth, she understood nothing of the life and power of godliness in her heart, and had no spiritual sense of its importance and excellence. It was not without some prejudice and apprehension on these points, that she formed a connexion with that family, in which she lived and died with so much honour ; but a better acquaintance with religion, as she saw it exemplified in domestic arrangements, and explained in its necessary, practical and substantial truths, caused her groundless prejudices to disperse, to be succeeded by cordial approval.
There was still, however, wanting that decided change, which would have marked her out as being, in the language of Scripture, “a new creature;” there was not that entire and radical alteration of her views in regard to God and her soul, which would have indicated that she had sat at the feet of the great Teacher, and had felt her need of Jesus so deeply as to cast herself on him solely, and to determine to follow him wholly. She took an interest in that which the Scripture revealed to her of the Saviour; but she was not willing to become, in his own sense of the word, “a disciple.” Her great impediment and difficulty lay in her love of the pleasures and vanities of the world. Her conscience taught her to feel that these were inconsistent with a sincere attachment to real religion ; but with them she was not willing to part, for the sake of Him “ who, though he was rich, for the sake of sinners became poor, that they, through his poverty, might become rich.” While in this state of mind, it pleased God, in his wisdom and kindness, to send upon her the stroke of affliction, and as its consequence, the necessity of retirement. Her mind was thus drawn off from the world, and that was rendered insipid which had too long and too undividedly occupied her regard. He taught her, in her sorrow, the inability of earthly means to supply solid satisfaction; and, in her retirement, he gave her the opportunity of more thoroughly acquainting herself with “ the things which make for peace. The Spirit of God, the author of that change of which she subsequently gave so decided an evidence, accompanied these arrangements of Divine Providence ; sanctifying the sorrow which she as called to endure, and pouring light on her understanding and her heart, until from personal experience she could testify, that the ways of religion
of pleasantness, and her paths are paths of peace.” To these circumstances may be added, the blessing of God on the faithful preaching of his holy word, and the setting before her mind, by those who had the opportunity of Christian communication with her, the necessity of immediate repentance, the danger of procrastination, and of trifling with convictions. mind no longer halted between the world and Christ. Her resolution was taken, in the strength of God, to follow Him as her Lord and Master, on whom her faith rested exclusively as her Saviour; and often would she express to her friends, that she felt no cause to repent the exchange she had made, of the shadowy and unsubstantial pleasures of this world, for the solid and satisfactory joys which she found in the course to which she had committed herself.
This happy change took place about thirty years before her death ; and during this long interval, she was enabled to walk so closely with God, and so circumspectly before men, as to
prove the sincerity with which she had “ chosen the better part,” the unreservedness with which she had devoted herself to the love, fear, and service of God, and the intentness with which she desired to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge and love of God, her Saviour, in all things.”. It is not less a duty than a privilege, to notice specially some of the leading features of the walk and conversation of those who have been distinguished for their unfeigned attachment to those spiritual views of religion which the Scripture inculcates, and for their anxiety to illustrate their excellence, in the holiness, humility, and consistency of their lives. To do this, requires not that we should eulogize the individual; the object of such a review should be threefold :-to gain an example for imitation ; to give the praise to God, whose grace alone conduced to the effects we are permitted to contemplate ; and to gather the encouragement, that what his grace accomplished in the particular instance which attracts our attention, it stands ready, in answer to prayer, to produce in our own character and conduct. From much that is on record of the religious history of the Countess of Warwick, we may make a brief selection.
A diligent habit of self-examination was prominent among the means she adopted for the maintenance of the life of God in her soul. The only evidences of her personal meetness for heaven which she admitted, were such as she was assured would stand the test of God's omniscience, because they were such as his word pointed out and approved. Profession, in her view, was nothing, except as it led to, and was accompanied by, a corresponding practice. “ Be not deceived : he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous," 1 John iii. 7. “ Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven,” Matt. vii. 21.
“ Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. v. 20.
This habit of self-scrutiny was united with much carefulness and circumspection, in abstaining from all appearance of evil. In all doubtful cases, it was her rule to take the safe side; and rather to deny herself, where she was not sure she was right, than run any risk of bringing any discredit on religion, or dishonour on the cause of her Divine Master, by doing that which might be inconsistent or unlawful. Thus it must ever be with those who truly love the Lord Jesus, and who rightly estimate their obligations to show forth the praises of Him, who called them out of darkness into his marvellous light." Love and
gratitude will dictate, that the great commanding principle of the believer's life should be, "to prove what is acceptable to the Lord;" and a suspicion, on good grounds, that any particular habit or engagement is not acceptable to him, will be sufficient to decide the heart against it. In this respect, “whatever is not of faith,” and cannot be undertaken with a well-grounded confidence that He whose favour is our highest good, will confer his blessing upon it, is “sin,” Rom. xiv. 23. The diversions which the world calls innocent, and which are often entered upon, professedly, for the sake of killing time, her Ladyship repudiated. Of time, that most precious gift, she was nobly avaricious; and it was her wont to say, that, among the things which were too hard for her, and which she could not comprehend, was this: “ How those who professed to believe in an eternal state, and its dependence on this inch of time, could complain of time's lying as a dead commodity on their hands, which they were at difficulty to dispose of.”
The depth and maturity of the Christian's experimental knowledge is, like every other kind of proficiency, inseparable from the habit of earnest and persevering meditation on that which is the object of pursuit. From this engagement the subject of this memorial derived the highest advantage. She was accustomed to walk two hours every morning, to meditate alone; choosing some particular point on which to reflect, which she would, as it were, press upon her heart, that she might extract from it nourishment for her piety. After having commenced the day with reading the Scriptures, prayer, and meditation, she united with the whole family in the act of devotion, never absenting herself, and in the seriousness of her deportment setting an example, which could not be otherwise than impressive on her household. Of the souls of her servants she took the most tender care; aud if she had any ambition, it was to be the mistress of a religious family. Not satisfied with their attendance on the public means of grace, she instructed them personally, and mingled her familiar explanations of the truth with tender persuasions to embrace it. She dispersed books of a scriptural and instructive character in all the common rooms of her house, and sought, by every means, to promote the spiritual welfare of those who were in attendance on her. The 101st Psalm became the directory of her domestic economy. While her resolution in divine strength was indeed, “I will walk before my house with a perfect heart,” the choice of her attendants was regulated by the Psalmist's rule—“ Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me."
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27 RED LION SQUARE
Even among those who were her dependents, she “honoured those who feared the Lord.”
Solicitude for the spiritual interests of her friends, was a striking feature in the history of the Countess. “ When thou art converted,” said our Lord to Peter,“ strengthen thy brethren,” Luke xxii. 32. And this charge to the disciple she felt as conveying a lesson to all his professed followers. Many were the plans which zeal for the glory of God, and love to souls, led her to adopt, with a view to Christian usefulness. In company
she would often introduce profitable conversation, by dropping some sentence—some moral or holy apothegm-. that was not very remote from the subject of conversation ; and would thus turn the thoughts and converse into an useful channel, without offence, and even to the satisfaction of her friends. Friendship she regarded as a talent to be improved for God; and often she availed herself of it to plead, with those to whom she was attached, the cause of God and their own souls. In these attempts, it was hard to resist the touching eloquence of the affection with which she spoke. “I cannot be so unkind,” she would say, nay, so unfaithful to the laws of friendship, as to let you persist, and perish in a way which you know, as well as I do, leads down to destruction.” If they replied with excuses, she would stop them thus :-“ Use no arguments that will not hold good at the day of judgment. Oh that you, who, I dare say, would take my word for anything else, would do me the honour to take my word for Him, who is ready, if you come to him, to reconcile you to himself in Christ,—to heal your backslidings-to receive you graciously, —to love you freely. Do not fear that you shall have cause to repent of sincere repentance. No man was ever yet a loser by God. You shall not lose your pleasures; but exchange those which are transient and defiled, for those which are permanent and pure." A judicious use of her own experience was sometimes made, to give strength to her pleadings. « Alas! I was once of your mind; but I assure you, I have really found more satisfaction in serving God, than ever I found in all the good things of this life; of which you know I have had my share. Try it, therefore,—dare to be holy,—resolve to be so thoroughly.”
It is not a matter of surprise to find that, to one whose heart was so much set upon God, and all that concerned his glory, the Sabbath was a day of delight. Recognising the intimate connexion between its observance and the maintenance of the vitality of personal religion, she ever accounted it "holy unto the Lord, and honourable,” Isa. lviii. 13. Divine grace preserved