Caroline Fry

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
CAROLINE FRY, before her conversion, had become a pronounced deist. The chief instrument used in effecting in her this unhappy condition of mind was a man "of literary reputation, of venerable age, courtly and high-bred." In his sarcastic wit, it is said, he spared nothing human or divine. He became a frequent guest at the table of the relative with whom Caroline resided, and she fell completely under the influence of his fascinations.
"If his insidious flattery," one writes, "failed to make any impression on her delicacy, artlessness, and purity of thought and feeling, there was that in which the influence of his corrupt companionship did not fail she was too innocent for his immorality, she was just ready for his irreligion. Never, perhaps, at the early age of nineteen and twenty, in a heart of such simplicity and uncorruptness and real ignorance of evil, was the enmity of the fallen nature so developed. Here, in the bosom of a simple girl, brought up in all the virtuous regularity and real religious observance of a secluded country life, a stranger to all that is morally evil——with a mind solidly instructed, and unused to any manner of evil influence by books or company ; hitherto a stranger to sorrows, wrongs and fears, that tend to harden the un-gracious heart ; in this unvitiated, unworldly bosom was manifested at that early age, clear and strong to her memory as if it was of yester-day, a living, active hatred to the very name of God I She persuaded herself there was no God, and thought she believed her own heart's lie ; but if she did, why did she bate Him ? Why did she feel such renovated delight when His name was the subject of the profane old poet's wit ? 'No God' was probably with her, as it usually is with other infidels, the determination of the heart, and not of the judgment. Thus, while she thought herself above all religious doubts, she seized delightedly on every manifestation of infidelity in those around her, and laughed with the utmost zest of gratified aversion at every profanation of the holy Name."
In the family where she resided there was everything against the encouragement of any-thing like serious thought or reflection, "except," as one has said, "the restless, unsatisfied, unhappy state of her own mind, displeased with everything around and within her; weary and disgusted with the present, and gloomy and hopeless of the future, without a single sorrow but the absence of all joy." So miserable was she at times that she would give expression to her feelings thus "God, if thou art a God, I do not love Thee ; I do not want Thee ; I do not believe in any happiness in Thee ; but I am miserable as I am ; give me what I do not seek, do not like, do not want, if Thou canst make me happy. I am tired of this world ; if there is any-thing better, give it me."
Could ever a heart be more miserable ? Yet this was the apparently gay, thoughtless deistical girl who made merry over blasphemy and jested concerning the existence of a personal God! Truly, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17: 9).
Destitute of any other object of affection at this time, Miss Fry attached herself with extreme devotion to the daughter of a clergyman in a neighboring parish. This young woman was singularly beautiful, but a painful disappointment had caused her to become morbidly melancholy, and she bitterly denounced the world, with all its ways and vanities. She wished to leave it, she said, and spoke much of death, eternity, and God. "I do not remember," said Miss Fry, "that she ever spoke of Christ, of atoning merit, or redeeming love ; I believe she knew them not. She talked of the world's emptiness, levity, and injustice. I do not re-member that she ever spoke of her own sin. I believe her religion was purely sentimental." (See Rom. 2: 1-11.)
As might be expected, Miss Fry never un-bosomed herself to this friend in regard to the dissatisfaction she felt with her deistical views. She did sometimes complain to her of her impetuosity and lack of self-control, and expressed the wish that she might possess that composure and calm philosophy manifested by her friend on all occasions. Her friend therefore wrote her, telling her it was her religion that enabled her to remain calm and self-possessed on every occasion of trial, and not philosophy, as Miss Fry supposed.
This stung her to the quick. The assertion that something moral or spiritual, and not a mental habit of character, was what she lacked, and the possession of which gave her idolized friend the advantage over her, aroused her whole moral being and wrought deep conviction in her soul. On first perusing the letter, she gave way to a paroxysm of grief and indignation—grief to think that her infidelity should be thus tacitly condemned, and indignation that she should be catechized by her friend on a subject relating directly to God, whose existence she professed to deny or gravely doubt. She deter-mined that her religious friend should not be allowed to persuade or influence her in regard to her belief.
She tried to compose herself on three successive days to answer the letter, but could not. "Before the third night arrived, the struggle was over ; the battle had been fought and won ; the 'strong man armed was vanquished ; the banner of Jesus waved peacefully over the subdued and prostrate spirit of the infidel despiser of His Word, the conscious hater of His most precious name. Lord, save me, or I perish,' has been, and is, from first to last, the sum of her religion, and dated from that most wondrous night, the first in which she knelt before the cross ; in which she prayed ; in which she slept in Jesus.
"Being now at peace with God, she made up her quarrel with all things. The zest of life returned ; she no longer quarreled with her destiny, or felt distaste of all her pursuits, or grew weary of her existence without any reason. The void was filled; she never after wanted something to do, or something to love, or some-thing to look forward to; the less there was of earth, the more there was of heaven in her vision ; whenever man failed her, Christ took her up. She had no more stagnant waters, long as her voyage was through troubled ones ; she was, with all the leaven of her old nature that remained, essentially a new creature to herself."
It must not be supposed that these new principles of her life were anything of the nature of those of her cynical friend, who had been the unconscious instrument of her conversion. "it was not to a mere religiousness," the same writer says, "earnest and pharisaic, that she emerged out of her heart-chosen infidelity ; it was to a faith in our Lord Jesus Christ as the one Mediator and High Priest, and to a simple-hearted trust in Him as all her salvation. The bare truth that religion is the one thing needful stung her to the quick ; but the seeds of other truths were in her mind, though bated and dis-believed. And these sprang up, now that the fallow-ground was broken, and produced those fruits of humble trust in the Saviour of sinners, devout love to His holy name, and an earnest zeal to consecrate to His praise a life that had been redeemed by His mercy."
This, largely in the well-chosen words of an-other, is the singularly interesting account of Caroline Fry's conversion, and we believe its republication at this time to be most opportune, when evolution and other refined forms of skepticism and infidelity are taking such a hold upon the minds of the young women of the land, especially those engaged in study or teaching.
What, young woman, can your "advanced thought" do for you ? Can it satisfy or fill your heart in life and lighten your darkness in the inevitable hour of death ? Alas, no I And you will be compelled some day to confess it ; and you will, some day, pray to that God, whose existence or Word you now deny and doubt, with that self-same bitterness and misery of soul with which Caroline Fry, in the period of her darkness, prayed to Him.
God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as revealed in "the Scriptures of truth," can alone satisfy those strange, mysterious longings of the human heart. Cast thyself, then, unreservedly on His grace in Christ, and let Him satisfy and fill thine empty, weary heart, for it is writ-ten: "HE SATISFIETH THE LONGING SOUL."
O FOR a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise ;
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace !
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim—
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy Name.
Jesus !—the Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease ;
'Tis music in the sinner's ears,
'Tis life, and health and peace.
He breaks the power of cancelled sin
He sets the pris'ner free ;
His blood can make the foulest clean ;
His blood availed for me.
He speaks,—and, list'ning to His voice,
New life the dead receive ;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ!
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come ;
And leap, ye lame, for joy !