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Pious Princes Post by :svesty Category :Essays Author :Lydia H. Sigourney Date :November 2011 Read :3029

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Pious Princes

The pomp with which royalty is surrounded must be unfavourable to a right education. Its proud expectations are often destructive to humility, and its flatteries blind the mind to a knowledge of itself.

Yet History records a few instances, where the young heart has escaped these dangers, and chosen truth for its guide, and wisdom as its portion. Here and there, we find one, whom the possession of an earthly crown did not deter from the pursuit of that which is incorruptible and eternal.

Josiah, the king of Judah, was one of these rare examples. He was born about the year six hundred and thirty-three, before the Christian era, and at the early age of eight was called to succeed his father on the throne. The temptations of kingly power, which are so often a hindrance to piety, seemed rather to dispose his heart to its influence, for the sacred historian records that in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, "he began to seek after the God of David his father."

The religion of this young prince of sixteen soon unfolded itself in earnest deeds; the overthrow of idolatry, the repair of the Holy Temple, and the establishment of laws for the welfare of his people and realm.

Modern history, also, describes some young heirs of royalty, whom it is pleasant to contemplate. Conspicuous among these is Edward VI. of England, who began his reign in 1547, at the age of nine years. His mother died almost immediately after his birth, and until he was nearly seven he was under the care of females, whose virtues and accomplishments were calculated to make the happiest impression on his character. Thus, by the grace of God, was laid the foundation of that deep, tender, and consistent piety, that marked his conduct through life, and left him, at death, an unblemished fame.

In early childhood he discovered strong powers of mind, and a conscientious heart. His reverence for the Scriptures was remarkable. Once, while playing with some infantine companions, he desired to reach an article that was considerably above their heads. So they moved a large book for him to stand upon. Scarcely had he placed his foot upon the covers when he saw it was the Bible. Instantly drawing back, he folded his arms around it and said seriously to his play-fellows, "Shall I trample under my feet that which God hath commanded me to treasure up in my heart?"

On his seventh birth-day he was placed under the tuition of learned men, to study such branches of knowledge as they considered best for him, among which were the Latin and French languages. He was docile to all their directions, and frequently expressed his gratitude for their instructions. Letters elegantly written in Latin, at the age of eight, to his father, Henry Eighth, Queen Catharine Parr, his mother-in-law, and the Earl of Hertford, his uncle, are preserved as curiosities in the annals of those times.

At his coronation, being then nine years old, three swords were laid before him to signify that he was the monarch of three separate kingdoms.

"There is another sword yet wanting," said the child-prince, "one more, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Without that we are nothing, we can do nothing; we have no power. Through that, we are what we are, at this day. From that Book alone, we obtain all virtue and salvation, and whatever we have of divine strength."

Constancy and regularity in prayer was among his early traits of character. After he became a king, and was subject to the interruptions and temptations of a court, nothing could induce him to neglect his daily seasons of private devotion. One day, he was told, that Sir John Cheeke, who had given him lessons in Latin, when quite a young child, was dangerously sick. With deep solemnity on his countenance, he went to his stated retirement, and afterwards hearing that the physician had said there was little hope of his recovery, replied in the simple fervour of faith,

"Ah! but I think there is. For I have most earnestly begged of God, in my prayers, this morning, to spare him."

When the sufferer was restored to health, and informed of this circumstance, he was deeply touched by the grateful affection and confiding piety of his royal pupil.

Edward Sixth kept an exact diary of all the memorable events that passed under his observation. The conferring of every office, civil or ecclesiastical, the receipts and expenditure of the revenue, the repairs or erection of forts, the sending forth or reception of ambassadors, and indeed, all matters of business that occurred during his reign, were legibly recorded by his own hand, with their appropriate dates. This diary, which evinces industry and uprightness of purpose, is often quoted by historians.

But pulmonary consumption early made fatal inroads on his health, and he prepared for a higher and happier state with the benignity of one whose heart was already there. The following prayer, which is among those which he used as the close of life drew nigh, will show how much the progress of true religion among his people dwelt on his mind, when about to be taken from them:

"My Lord God! if thou wilt deliver me from this miserable and wretched life, take me among thy chosen. Yet, not my will, but Thy will be done. Lord I commit my spirit unto Thee. Thou knowest how happy it were for me to be with Thee. But if Thou dost send me life and health, grant that I may more truly serve Thee.

"Oh my God! save thy people, and bless thine inheritance. Preserve thy chosen realm of England, and maintain Thy true religion, that both king and people may praise Thy holy name, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Edward Sixth died at the age of sixteen, July 6th, 1553, beloved and lamented by all over whom he had reigned.

The historians of France record, with high encomium, the virtues of one of their princes, a son of Louis Fifteenth, who died before his father. He possessed a noble spirit, amiable manners, and in all the duties and sympathies of private life was so exemplary, that he was pronounced by national enthusiasm, "too perfect to continue on earth." He was exceedingly attentive to the education of his children, and vigilant in guarding them against the pride and arrogance of royalty. He continually endeavoured to impress upon their minds, that though they had been placed by Heaven in an elevated station, yet virtue and religion were the only true and enduring distinctions. His death, which was deeply mourned by the nation over which he had expected one day to rule, took place on the 20th of December, 1765, when he had just attained the age of thirty-seven years.

He directed the preceptor of his children to take them to the abodes of the poor, and let them taste the coarsest bread, and lie down upon the hardest pallet, that they might know how the needy live, and learn to pity them.

"Ah! suffer them also to weep," he would say, "for a prince who has never shed tears for the woes of others can never make a good king."

Yes, take them to the peasant's cot,
Where penury shrinks in pain and care,
Spread to their view the humblest lot,
And let them taste the coarsest fare,

And bid their tender limbs recline
Upon the hard and husky bed,
Where want and weary labour pine,
Diseased, unpitied, and unfed;

And let them weep; for if their eyes
With tender Pity ne'er o'erflow,
How will they heed their subjects' signs,
Or learn to feel a nation's woe?

Oh children! though your Maker's hand,
Hath mark'd for you a lofty sphere,
And though your welfare and command
Are now to partial Gallia dear;

Yet many a child from lowliest shed,
Whose peasant father turns the sod,
May in the righteous day of dread
Be counted greater by his God.

(The end)
Lydia H. Sigourney's essay: Pious Princes

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