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message for him to visit a young man apprehended to
be dying in a distant part of the town. There was
something startling in the very terms ; youth and
death, are ideas so contrary in all our common trains
of thinking, that it is only by a painful example that
we can be compelled to yoke them together. I was
immediately despatched, with the help of David, to
put the old bay horse with a star in his forehead,
into a chaise, which rattled as it went, and was so
old as to be denominated by the boys, the ark of the



60 THE PURITAN.

testimony. My grandfather put on his light blue
coat, placed in his shoes his square silver buckles,
took down his three-cornered beaver, seized his ivory-
headed cane, and in ten minutes we were ridinor as
fast as old dobbin would carry us, to the widow Rus-
sel's, whose only son was apprehended to be on his
dying bed.

It had been so often my lot to drive my grandfather
on such expeditions, that perhaps I should have felt
little emotion, had I not known young Russel, a few
weeks before, blooming in all the promises of youth
and expectation. He was the son of a fond mother,
who was ready to testify her fondness for her son by the
most boundless indulgences. There was a passion in
the young lads of Bundleborough, about that timfe, to
cast off their rustic slough, and to go into Boston and
polish their manners behind a counter ; insomuch that I
have seen many a hard hand and brown face, blackened
by the dust of a potato field, after a few months' resi-
dence with a city shopkeeper, become as soft and as
white as a petit maitre. They exchanged the honest
simplicity of the country, for all the vice and affectation
of a town life. I remember my aunt Hannah used
to compare them to grub worms changed into but-
terflies ; and what was very wonderful, some parents,
sober enough themselves, seemed to rejoice in the
transformation.

The widow Russel's house, stood near the burying
ground. It was a small white mansion, with a few



THE PURITAN. 61

willow trees before it ; which grew in a little inclosed
garden, dedicated to grass and to flowers. As we
walked up to the door, the knocker of which was
muffled, it seemed to me that the very pinks and
daffodils drooped their heads, as if conscious that
youth and beauty were approaching the tomb. A
profound silence reigned around the mansion ; the
dust at the gate was worn by the wheels of the phy-
sician's sulky, who had turned away his steed for the
last time ; and nothing now remained, but for the
mental physician to minister, if possible, to a mind
diseased, and fit a trifling spirit to take its flight to its
Maker and its God. As we went in, his mother
came with tears in her eyes to request my grand-
father to deal gently with her son ; to be faithful, to
be sure, but not to alarm his spirits with the horrors
of his con'dition. *' He must die, I know," said she,
'* no art can save him. But he is still cherishing
foolish hopes of life, and a sudden fright might dis-
tract him. O, Sir, save his soul, but do not increase
his weakness and accelerate his death."

We entered his chamber, and found him sitting up
with several pillows at his back, near the head of his
bed ; a green silk gown was thrown over his shoul-
ders ; his bosom was ruffled with much care, and a
shining breastpin held the parts of his well-plaited
shirt together ; in his hands he held a gold watch,
which his fond mother had given him, and on his
bed lay an inverted pamphlet, which he had just



62 THE PURITAN.

been reading, and which on inspecting I found to be
the farce called the JVags of Windsor. He was
excessively pale ; his eyes prominent and staring ;
his breathing already difficult ; and he looked like a
skeleton dressed out in the fopperies of a beau. I
never saw a more ghastly sight.

He started as we entered, as if he saw unexpected
guests ; but my grandfather with a kind of paternal
familiarity approached his bedside, took him by the
hand, asked him how he did and how he felt. O, Sir,
said he, I am growing better ; my mother and friends
are somewhat alarmed about me, but I conceive
without reason. These last pills which my doctor
has left me, will set me on my legs again, and next
week I hope to ride out and take the fresh air, and in
a fortnight return to my business. For, Sir, I always
choose to look on the bright side of things.

Dea. O. And is life the only bright side ?

Russel. Yes, Sir, if I were to die, I should be in
despair indeed.

Dta. O. Why so ?

Russel. Because I have been very wicked. I
have no hope beyond the grave ; I have no peace of
mind.

Dea. O. Well, my young friend, whether you live
or die, it is vastly important that your peace be made
with God. Tell me, do you believe in his word 1
Have you confidence in your Bible I

Russel. I once had.



THE PURITAN. 63

Dea. O. And how is it now ? Have you lost
your compass ? Have you lost your path ?

Russel. Alas, Sir, the city is a bad place for a
youth like me, unfixed in his principles. If you will
take this key and unlock yonder trunk, you will find
the book that has undone me.

Here, with his pale, trembling hand, he took out the
key and sent the old gentleman to a trunk, who went
and took out the volume of some infidel, I forgot who.
•' There, Sir," said he, '* there is the false wisdom
which lured me in prosperity, and lurches me in my
distress. I never told my mother my principles.
Pray take the book and throw it into the fire."

" Well," my dear son, said my grandfather, taking
him by the hand, "it is never too late to repent, and
you certainly now have no time to lose."

Russel. O, Sir, I cannot ; it is impossible ; my
heart is like a rock ; I have passed the exclusive line;
I am gone forever.

Dea. O. But this is sinfiil despair ; God com-
mands all men every where to repent, and invites all
to accept his gospel.

Russel. I wish, Sir, I had strength to tell you my
story. There ! adjust this pillow ; raise my head a
little ; let me breathe the fi-esh air ; I wiU try to
speak. There was a time when I could not sleep
without praying. But when I went to the city, I
thought myself another man. Dress, and foppery,
and amusement, and, I must say, vice, occupied my



64 THE PURITAN.

heart. I went to scenes where I would not have had
my mother's eye pursue me, indulgent as she is, for
all the world. Shall I tell you, Sir, my present sick-
ness is in consequence of my vices; and I bear the
secret sting in my body and my soul. I soon joined
a club of young men, whose principles conformed to
their practices, and we were accustomed to meet on
Saturday evening ; that once calm evening of pre-
paration ; to ridicule our Bible ; to blaspheme our
Saviour, and to fortify ourselves in our courses. But
I am exhausted — I am faint — call in my mother.

Here he sunk, and his distracted mother came
rushing into the room, for she thought him dying.
" Speak, William, speak," said she, " shall this good
man pray for you." '' Yes," said he, " pray that I
may live ; for I cannot — I must not die. Pray that
I may live — I am not prepared to go. Pray, pray,
pray that I may live."

Here my grandfather kneeled down by his bed-
side, and took out his white pocket handkerchief,
and, while the mother bent over her son, grasping
his hand and laving his forehead, he offered a short
but fervent prayer. He prayed for his life, to be sure,
but he prayed more fervently, I thought, for his re-
pentance. When he had done, the youth lay in a
stupor, grasping his mother's hand and already half a
corpse. She, with a woman's solicitude to catch
some gleam of hope in the last extremity, ^ith a
frantic earnestness pressed his hand and said, "Speak,



THE PURITAN. 65

William, are you resigned to the will of God? If
you cannot speak, squeeze my hand. O say that you
are willing." But he lay motionless; and so far as
I could discern, in the awful language of Shakspeare,
he died and made no sign.

As we rode home that forenoon, my grandfather
seemed lost in meditation. He was a man that never
wept, but there was a volume in his face. " John,"
said he, as we reached the gate, *' remember and
learn." These pithy words rang in my ears for weeks
afterwards ; and as I retired that night to my mournful
pillow, I could not help saying when alone — Let me
die the death of the righteous^ and let my last end he
like his.



THE PURITAN

No. 8.



O dark, dark, dark amid the blaze of noon,

Irrevocably dark, total eclipse,

Without all hope of day.

Samson Agonistes. 180.

In a shoemaker's shop, in a town not far from
Boston, about sixty years ago, worked Samuel Small-
corn, a youth who was placed there by his father,
that, under a sponsible master, he might learn a
reputable trade. Sam was an honest lad, sometimes
easily imposed upon, from the simplicity of his heaft,
though by no means lacking in understanding. He
was rather credulous, because he never wished to im-
pose upon others ; and hence, he was the butt of the
wit of some of his fellow-apprentices, whose malice,
in the law phrase, supplied their years. Sam had
been honestly educated— had been taught his cate-
chism, which he could repeat, every word of it, with
all the commandments and the reasons annexed. He
had the highest respect for his father, who was the



THE PURITAN. 67

worthy representative of a long line of Puritan an-
cestors. In the same shop worked Phil Blake, who
was the suspected son of a very suspicious mother.
One day, when Sam was quoting, very innocently,
some of the sayings of his father, Blake cut him
short, by remarking —

' Your father, Sam, is a sly old fox ; he has more
blots on his character than you know of

* Blots!' said Sam, 'what blots? He is as honest a
man as ever trod sole-leather.'

' That may be,' said Blake ; ' but, let me tell you,
what you never knew before, and what you may as
well know now as at any other time — he has one son
that is not your brother.^

' Impossible ! ' cried Sam ; ' you are joking.'

' No, upon my soul ; it is the truth. I should not
fear to lay my hand on the Bible, and say — that your
father has one son, that is not your brother J

Sam heard the awful assertion, and turned as pale
as death. . His father! his respected father! — a mem-
ber of the church, and once having two votes for the
office of deacon ! — could the venerable old Mr. Small-
corn have an illegitimate son ! It was just after
breakfast ; but the contents of ^he morning meal did
not stay long on Sam's stomach. He was sick of the
world; sick of his father; sick of himself; and it
seemed to him, as it did to Brutus under the rock,
that virtue was an empty name. He worried over the
tidings all that day ; nor was it, until the shades of



68 THE PURITAN.

dewy evening came over the earth, that he found out
the dreadful amphibology' — for Blake asked him,
whether 'he himself was brother to himself ?' and
whether ' he was not his father's son? ' Then poor
Sam had a second penance to undergo — being laughed
at for his credulity.

For my part, I sympathize with poor Sam Small-
corn, and I detest Blake, whom I devoutly hope was
brouffht afterwards to the sallows : for there are cases
when credulity is more honorable than unbelief In-
deed, I do not know a phrase, which is more abused
than that of ' credulous people.' What is it that
makes a man credulous ? If, moved by a tale of wo,
you give to a being whose form is emaciated and
whose eyes are sunk in sorrow, some skeptical old
Hunks, who loves his purse better than his con-
science, will call you credulous, for hastily believing
a false story of misery. If you think it best to
part with your gold to spread the purest principles,
purer than fined gold, you will be regarded as the
dupe of some holy cheats, whose chief design, how-
ever, seems to be to cheat mankind into virtue and
happiness. Some people seem to have a mortal aver-
sion to any kind of credulity, which lays the least tax
on their selfishness, or calls for any benevolent exer-
tion. It is credulous to believe, that the sufferings of
the poor are great, or that there are such beings as
the poor. It is credulous to believe the Bible ; or to
suppose, that the Author of nature values the salvation



THE PURITAN. 69

of men more than the laws of nature. It is credulous
to believe, that religion is any thing else than a dream.
It is credulous to suppose, that this vast system vi^as
made for any purpose, or that the mighty vi^heels of
nature were first created, and are now rolled round,
by an invisible hand. It is credulous to imagine,
that there is any moral government ; any reward for
the virtuous, or any future punishment for the most
abandoned of mankind. In some people's imagina-
tion, conscience is the very organ of credulity; and
the only way of being a philosopher, is to suppress its
dictates and blunt its sensibilities. To hear some
people talk, you would suppose, that to be credulous
was the greatest disgrace ; and the only way to avoid
that imputation, was to reject all the truths around
which the pious have gathered, and which Heaven
has bound, by the most sacred obligations, on the
hopes and fears of mankind.

I remember that Plato, in one of his dialogues^
says that there was an order of men, in his day, who
rejected spiritual conceptions; and taking hold of
rocks, hills, or oaks, or some other material substance,
affirmed that these were the only real existences ; that
no wise man would puzzle himself about any ideas
or notions, but such as he could see with his eyes,
smell with his nose, or touch with his fingers. Per-
haps the peculiar, tenuous and transcendental phi-
losophy of Plato, was calculated to repel opposing
sects to opposite extremes; and he who was alwayi



70 THE PURITAN.

above the clouds, might provoke others to be always
grovelling on the ground. But, however this may be,
we seem, in these days of innovation, which some
call improvement, to be making rapid strides to this
blessed system. 1 was told of a certain bookseller,
in a certain city, that often scratches his head and
declares that the only work which he fully under-
stands is a treatise on cookery. Another substantial
gentleman, who boards at Tremont-house, assures me
that, after having long studied Chauncey on the Be-
nevolence of the Deity, he is convinced he never
understands the blessings of Heaven so w^ell as when
they descend before him in the shape of a plum-pud-
ding. One man tells me, that even his eye is almost
too spiritual an organ for him to trust to ; he is not
sure of the existence of an object of sight, especially
if he sees it at a distance. Of all spiritual objects,
he is most sure of the being and happy influence of
a good glass of gin, when he feels it warming his
stomach.

An infidel is too incredulous to believe the gospel ;
and, having laid up whatever stock of merit is to be
gained by rejecting the Bible, he thinks he is going
full sail, down the seven streams of the river of Wis-
dom. He congratulates himself, that, whatever else

O 7 7

the world may say of him, they cannot accuse him of
being a gull or a hypocrite. But, my dear sir, do you
not see that every proposition has two sides to it, and
that credulity consists in believing that side which



THE PURITAN. 71

has the least evidence ? Believing a negative, always
implies a hearty faith in all the positive proofs, which
support that negative, and the rejection of all the
evidence on the other side. You cannot believe in
Christianity; but you can believe, that life is without
an aim, and death without consequences ; you can
believe, that such a character as that of Jesus Christ
(which even commanded the admiration of Rousseau)
was drawn at random ; you can believe, that apostles
and martyrs conspired to deceive mankind, though
their lot was poverty and their reward death. You
can believe, that all that has animated the hopes of
the saint, cheered his prison with consolation, and
strewed his pillow with immortal roses, was delusion ;
you can rejoice in a discovery, which makes life a
blank, and leaves man little better than a two-legged
beast. You can believe, that the Son of God was an
impostor, and Bolingbroke and Tom Paine were the
benefactors of mankind.* I confess, that such phi-
losophy is too credulous for me.

But, it is not merely in what he rejects, that the
infidel's credulity appears. When a man abandons
the word of God, it is almost always the case, that
some strong delusion is sent into his mind, which
makes him infamous on his own system. It would
be a laughable catalogue enough, to collect all the

* Yes, though the one raced with his naked harlots, and the
other loved his bottle better than his God.



72 THE PURITAN.

fooleries which infidels have most devoutly believed,
and vi^hich are too much for the deglutition of most
Christian old women. The great Hobbs, whose
atheistic metaphysics shook all England to the centre,
was so afraid of polcers, that he never ventured to
sleep alone in a dark room. Hume, who regarded
all religions, and Christianity among the rest, as the
playsome whimsies of monkeys in human shape, yet
rather supposed, on the whole, that the Pagan my-
thology was the true system of the universe — he was
sure that that worship was the most easy and pleasing
to his taste. Lord Herbert, who could not believe
the miracles of the gospel, nor see any thing in the
moral designs of the gospel worthy of an occasion on
which miracles should be wrought, nevertheless sup-
posed his own book so important to the welfare of
mankind, that a sweet voice, about noon-day, as he
was sittings in his room, came from Heaven and urged
him to publish it. Cardinal Mazarin was kept awake
for whole nights, by the predictions of an astrologer ;
and Cardan could foretell his future fortunes, by little
specks rising on his finger nails. Such are the
triumphs of philosophy ; and these are the men, who
charge Christians with credulity for believing in a
system which commanded the assent of a Newton,
and lighted up the devotions of a Pascal.

If infidelity works such folly in the strongest brains,
one may well suppose that it will upset the wits of
those who are only infidels as far as their parts will



THE PURITAN. 73

allow. The truth is, a man must have some genius
to make infidelity wear well ; and nothing is more
credulous than a weak head attempting to carry the
strong notions of its betters. Infidelity is like brandy,
which, w^hile it makes some good fellows gay and
amusing, taken in the same draughts, it turns others
into drunken sots. Let common mortals beware, and
leave to Hercules his club, and to Voltaire his prin-
ciples. I heard a poor man, in a country town, com-
plaining, a few years ago, that the political movements
of our country puzzled him ; he had his eye on the
office of postmaster ; he had been trying to know
which party would be uppermost ; but no sooner did
he take his side, than, unluckily, the party he joined
went down ; and, with some spleen, he remarked, he
wished he could tell which party would be uppermost
for six months to come. Our political movements,
he said, in Washington, completely battled his pov/ers.
Now, what this man is to Van Buren, a common in-
fidel is to David Hume. The system is too much for
his head, however congenial it may be to his moral
feelings.

My neighbor. Dr. Littletoad, is an infidel as far as
he understands the subject. He has imbibed the
notion, that it is highly becoming a doctor of medi-
cine to be very skeptical on all other subjects ; and I
hardly know which are most harmless, his prmciples
or his pills. I have never taken either ; and I am as
ignorant of the composition of the one as the other.
6



74 THE PURITAN.

The doctor is always laughing at the credulity of
mankind. He wishes to believe the Bible, but he is
a philosopher, and cannot be so credulous as the
vulgar herd. I was reading to him, the other day,
the account of the resurrection of Lazarus, and
asked him what he thought of it. ' Why, sir,' said
he, ' there are great difficulties in the way of receiv-
ing that story. It cannot be accounted for on any of
the principles of gravity, or galvanism, or electricity.
Perhaps, however, Lazarus may have been in a state
of suspended animation ; and we have known people
in a syncope to recover by a blow on the hand, or a
voice in the ear.' So, Dr. Littletoad has some hopes
that the story of Lazarus may be true.

Dr. Littletoad delights to hold the balance of proba-
bility with an impartial hand, as if it were a moot
point, and a matter of indifference to mankind,
whether the supernatural events of revelation were
believed or not. The geology of Moses puzzles him
amazingly ; and he considers it very hard to conceive
that mankind descended originally from one pair ;
though, on other occasions, I have heard him main-
tain that the orang-outang is but an uneducated off-
shoot of the human race. He rather supposes there
may be such a thing as equivocal generation. He
has seen a horse-hair play strange pranks after having
been soaked in water ; and a very sensible ship-master
told him, on his honor, that he saw growing, on a tree
in the West Indies, a something, which looked very



THE PURITAN. 75

much like an incipient man. He wished that the
vegetable embryo had been suffered to ripen. In
this, however, the doctor was very disinterested ; for
the best part of his practice consists in being a man-
midwife.

But the most credulous man that ever I knew, is
my old school-fellow, Abner Alltail. Abner was an
unaccountable boy, when young, and signalized him-
self at school, by endeavoring to make impossible
gimcracks. He tried to fly a kite, with a string at
the tail instead of at the head; and once insisted,
that the only true way to navigate a boat, was to put
the rudder forward. This, he said, was steering^ in
the proper sense of the word. As Abner grew up,
he became an infidel ; and often has he mentioned to
me the argument which carried conviction to his
mind, and which, he says, is unanswerable. Hap-
pening to meet with a translation of Lucretius, he
there found that that bad philosopher, but beautiful
poet, teaches the motion of the atoms, through the
vast inane, combining and conforming in various ad-
hesions, until this world of beauty, and man at the
head of it, arose as the true shapes happened to
jumble together. This, Alltail combined with the
rule of permutations and combinations, as he found it
stated in Pike's arithmetic. * You must grant me,'
said he, one day when he was descanting on his
favorite theme, * that all sorts of combinations, in
these atoms, are possible j you must grant me, further,



7G THE PURITAN.

that one of these combinations is the present system
of order and beauty ; suns, stars, mists, streams,
birds, beasts, man, male and female. Now, sir,' con-
tinued he, * these atoms have had an indefinite period
in past time, to shake about like the figures in a
kaleidoscope, and you and I happen to fall on the
present configuration. That 's all.' I told him I had
never seen a system of cosmogony more easily des-
patched. I ought to have mentioned before, that
Abner is an old bachelor, and hates the present race
of women almost as much as he hates his Bible. But,
as he wants a wife, whenever he can find a suitable
one, he is resolved to carry his system of philosophy
into practice. He has procured himself a kind of
long tub, like the circular churn, which I have seen
among the Dutchmen in New York. This tub, or
vessel, turns with a crank, and he has put into it
some of the finest pipe-clay he could get, together
with pulverized marble and chalk, mixed with a little
milk and water. This he turns diligently, for six
hours every morning, and says he doubts not, when
the right configuration of particles comes about, he
shall see a beautiful woman hop out of his tub, whom
he intends to marry. I called on him the other day,
and found him sweating away at his task, nothing
discouraged by the sweety reluctant^ amorous delays
with which his bride, in posse and not in esse, treats
his philosophic advances. Abner has been at work
on the project now for almost a whole year ; and I



THE PURITAN. 77

asked him if he was not about discourao-ed. 'No.'
said he, with great simplicity ; ' for, though it is pos-
sible that this crank may be turned for billions of
ages, and the right configuration not be found, it is
possible, also, it may come the next moment.' Poor
Abner ! before I embrace your principles, I think I


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