As I have before remarked, my floral associations are very arbitrary. They are sometimes founded on a resemblance, traced between the individual and the flower; but more frequently upon some incident that has connected them : and then I love to follow up the union, by making out some actual point of likeness. Not a few of mv best-loved from a luxuriant plant, that mantled its walls, pre -senting it with a graceful expression of her gratitude, and saying it was in itself a poor token, but rich in the sacred resemblance which it bore to what we both held, most holy.
I took an affectionate leave of her: and on shewing the flower to a friend, with an account of its fair donor, she replied, ' Poor E-! It could be no other, for she is all that you describe, and there is not one like her in the place.' She then proceeded to tell me, that my nun was a young lady, educated in the Protestant faith ; but led to apostatize under strange circumstances. What these were, she could not inform me: but several years after I learnt her story. It was briefly this : her father, a Romanist, had married a Protestant, with the customary iniquitous agreement, that the sons should be brought up in his religion—the daughters in hers. Daughters only were born, and they were educated in the Protestant faith ; but, on their father's death, a number of priests assembled, to perform offices for the departed soul, during the time that the corpse lay in the house ; and so well did they improve their opportunity, that the widow and all her daughters renounced Protestantism shortly after the funeral, with the exception of E-.
To overcome her conscientious repugnance, the most nefarious means were resorted to ; a pretended miracle, performed by some relic, failed to convert, though it staggered her: and they then had recourse to one of the foul stratagems, so common in gaining proselytes from among the young and imaginative. They contrived that, in the dead of night, a figure resembling her deceased father, of whom she was very fond, should appear to her, stating that he had obtained permission to re-visit the earth, for the sacred purpose of solemnly assuring her, that the faith in which he died, was the only passport to heaven. This succeeded—she never recovered from the shock : but she renounced her religion, and took the veil.
Had I known this at the time, I cannot, say to what lengths my indignation might have carried me : but the bare fact of her having apostatized was sufficient to rouse my zeal. I soon repeated my visit; and faithfully told her how very far I was from agreeing in her views ; while the good nuns, on their part, had, as I found, already engaged the help of a seminary of Jesuits, not far off, to proselytize me ; and poor E. was permitted to follow her affectionate inclination for my society, under the charitable hope that she might save my soul. I look back with emotions of trembling thankfulness to that time: for I was very young indeed in the faith, and totally ignorant of controversy. I knew that popery was idolatry; and I knew that idolatry was a damnable sin; but beyond this, I had not examined the subject. The mode pursued with me was to extort a promise that I would carefully study whatever books the nun should lend me; and I gave it, on condition that I might write out, and that she would read, my opinions on them. A parcel was presently sent, selected by the Jesuits ; and I sat. down to examine one of the most specious and dangerous works ever penned ; (Milner's ' End of Controversy.') I adhered to my engagement, and thanks be to God for his unspeakable mercy in guarding me as he did ! I could not unravel the artful web of deep and diabolical sophistry : but I saw and felt that it was essentially opposed to the truth of Scripture. I wept over the book, in grief and perplexity, but the Lord led me to pray, and then, as by a bright beam breaking forth, I saw the mystery of iniquity in all its deceivableness of un righteousness. Prayer had cut the knot which rea son could not disentangle, and I was enabled to set forth the truth, in a latter, to the poor nun, so as to exhibit the contrasting error in a forcible point of view. Other books were sent and read, and commented on ; and the Lord overruled my perilous course of study to bringing me acquaint ed with the depths of this fearful delusion ; but, at length, the dear nun, who had been carefully guarded from any private interviews with me, after they commenced operations, managed to let me know, in writing, that she was not allowed to see a line of my comments on the books : all being committed, by her superior, to their spiritual advisers. She justified this proceeding, it is true ; but I have reason to think it produced a strong effect on her naturally ingenuous and honourable mind.
Many a time did we try to see one another alone; and so anxious was I, that I once asked her to go to the chapel with me, and talk there : but an old nun was beforehand with us, and was seated in a stall, conning her book when we entered. E. glanced towards her, made a sign to me, and proceeded to talk of gardening. Shortly after this, they resolved to try what effect an imposing ceremony would have on me. I had, of course, refused to be present at the celebration of mass: but now, two nuns were to profess, and take the veil; and so resolved were they to have me, that not only were two front seats reserved, but the whole service was fairly written out by the hand of E., with a full explanation of the ceremonies, and sent to me with tickets for my mother and myself: while all that affection could dictate, or flattery prompt, or animated description pourtray to excite curiosity, was said in the accompanying letter. I felt grieved to appear ungrateful for such kindness ; I gave them credit for the most obliging intentions, arid perhaps, for a moment, I almost wished to overcome my scurples, on so interesting an occasion : but in proportion as I became acquainted with the fearful character of a religion clearly opposed to the gospel of Christ, and convinced of the rank idolatry perpetrated in its stated devotions, I felt the wickedness, the ingratitude, the dishonesty of sanctioning in any way, whatever, those grievous insults offered to my redeeming God. I felt that every Protestant who complacently looks on, becomes a participator in those rites; and I really dared not go into a place where I had no warrant whatever for believing that God would go with me, under the presumptuous expectation that He would wait for me at the door, again to enter into what he had deigned to make His temple, after its wanton and uncalled-for agreement with idols.