Page images
PDF
EPUB

am unable to say; but unfortunately for my coadjutors, being the son of an old, praying man, who had compell. ed me to hear the book he loved, read twice every day, I knew that all the merriment and all the jeering was founded on lie, and I do not remember that I ever laughed in the midst of our hilarity. I had built, what seemed to me, walls between me and Christianity. I had my strong objections, as I thought them, such as will be mentioned after a time, but those arguments which would have been powerful, only that they start. ed in lies naked to all who had read the Bible thrice with attention, gave me more pain than pleasure.

But this example of a fondness for filthy jesting, is not the whole truth. It does not reach the summit of entire fact... A kind of indecent jesting still more indel. icate, became much practised and more loved.

They would take some case of crime recorded in the Bible, some case of adultery, or of fornication, and name it, and repeat it, and place it in different attitudes with unusual delight. This was one more kind of war. fare which did not fix my principles of infidelity. It rather rendered me more uneasy if I saw it settle the creed of others, for I knew well enough that the Bible nowhere enjoined adultery, praised incest, or recom. mended fornication. I remembered that if the book had given us the history of faultless men, we should have pronounced it lies, because the volume says there are none such, and because it would have contradicted our obser. vation of the human race. I also recollected that if the history of individuals is given to us, we should prefer that the truth, and the whole truth, should be honestly narrated, rather than faults concealed and virtues ex. tolled.

When I heard my companions of the hotel circle, seize

upon some case of unchastity, recorded to the disgrace of a patriarch perhaps, and besmear it all over with the pollutions of a filthy imagination, and love to dwell upon it, and speak as though this was what the writers wished to teach, or what the scriptures recommended, I could not but see that there was an unfairness there, which proved that the alleged filthiness existed in the heart of the jester, and not on the page of scripture history. Indeed sometimes when I witnessed the self-esteem of my brethren in infidelity, their dictatorial puffing, united with ignorance visible to the unlearned, I could not help making secret and severe remarks upon them, for it was my day of haughty wick. edness. I have said to myself in language yet more ungentle, that of which the following is the import: “Selfadmiring worm! an expert man could frame in half an hour, a more ingenious lie against any narrative that ever was written, than any which you are capable of repeating after the last one you heard talk.”

Strange to tell, these discoveries, these facts, and even these feelings, had no further influence upon me than to strengthen my resolve to read further, and examine my old doubts with more accuracy.

CHAPTER LII.

MEANS OF RESCUE_VOLNEY'S RUINS.

After I had gone through all the writings of the renowned Voltaire, I could not find one argument or

position, which was unmixed truth. Since then I have seen letters of certain Jews to Voltaire. I could not discover in them any evidence of a solitary misrepre. sentation. This proves to me that those who feel right do not wilfully, and of course do not often mistake. These Israelites in writing to this great man, tell him that he took his thoughts from Bolingbroke, Morgan, Tindal, &c. who, in their turn had copied them from others. It really did seem to me as though it was not on account of their weight, or superior excellence, that we need suspect any one of originality who copies them. My disappointment was great, and my astonishment indescribable, to find writings which had revolutionized provinces, or perhaps nations in their religious creed, destitute of truth and full of falsehood. Pure, lovely truth, art thou discarded? Is falsehood, black, ungain. ly falsehood, loved in place of truth? Only in matters of religion. The carnal mind loves darkness there, but in other things men prefer light.

I resolved to read the works of others of the renown. ed, and of the talented; for perhaps it was in these books that I might find united in one lovely circle, strength, mildness, truth, candour, and philanthropy. I took hold of Volney's Ruin of Empires, most commonly and familiarly called Volney's Ruins. I had heard this work extolled long and loud, and I read it attentively. The style was excellent, and the manner captivating ; but that which was more pleasing still was this; the profusion of bitter mis-statement, that constant stream of malignant untruth in which I had been wading, was wanting here. The most of his text was truth, real truth. The impression made on my mind by this volume, I shall not be able to make the reader

fairly comprehend without his passing through some previous course of explanation.

I think this can be made plain by relating the substance of an interview which took place between a minister of the Gospel and an infidel. They held a long conversation on a point which, if overlooked or misunderstood, no one can understand Volney or his doctrines. This dialogue between the deist and the preacher cannot be given verbally, but only substantially. I can give very correctly the sentiment expressed on that occasion, but accuracy of words I cannot attempt, nor is it necessary. The substance of their conversation was as follows:

Deist.-Another, and the strongest reason why I can never receive the religion you profess is, that it speaks of visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation! I have too much respect for my Creator to believe he will ever do this in any case.

Preacher.—Perhaps you did not notice that the verse does not speak of visiting the punishment due to the father upon the children. It is the iniquity of the fathers which God speaks of visiting upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

Deist.—I do not believe that he would visit any thing of the father's upon the child, in any way or in any shape. I have a higher esteem for my Maker than this would amount to. I do not believe it, and I will not believe it.

Preacher.-You do believe it, for you see it all round you every day and every hour, and you consent to it, and you approve of it.

Deist. I do not understand you, sir.

Preacher.You may understand if you will, for no. thing is plainer in matter of fact, I knew a man (Mr. S.) who had one son, his only child. This man would not work. He would not humble himself to hon: est labour. He seemed to have an invincible aversion to bodily toil. Here his iniquity began, for the God of the Bible had ordered him to work. He must have food and raiment, and he frequented horse-races, and frequently made a considerable sum by betting. He would attend card parties, and frequently filled his pockets from the losses of those less skilful than himself. In this way I knew him to spend nearly twenty years. His little son was very lively and healthful, and promisingly intellectual. As this active little boy grew up, he did not work any more than his father did, and no one expected he would. He loved best to go with his father from place to place, and from village to village. He mingled in different kinds of company, saw new faces continually, and all childish embarrassments wore away. He became skilful in riding fleet horses and in different games. His father's character became his. No one expected it to be otherwise.

sier to teach him a love for loose amusements than for toil. The tavern-house revel was more attractive for the youth of sixteen, than was the corn-field employment. But mark you, the father was not happy. Indolence opens the door to other vices. He lost the respect of his fellow-citizens. He loved intoxicating drinks ; he became otherwise abandoned, and was miserable. His iniquity was punished much here in this life. But his son was unhappy too. His father's character descended to him. God has declared in the hearing of all parents, that it is not his plan to prevent it. He became a

was

« PreviousContinue »