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every line in the message from heaven to man, is full of love? Then, indeed, have I not heard one line of this message since this meeting began, until this moment! for all here has been wrathvengeance-damnation-horror-malediction! What am I to think
of all this ?"
Last of all, arose Mr. F, the great, the notorious Mr. Fwho was kept to the last as a sort of force in reserve, that when the congregation had become fatigued in body and mind—their spirits jaded their nervous systems morbidly excitable-he might then strike a decisive blow, and secure an easy vietory. Mr. Frolled his large eyes over the audience for some time in silence, affecting to peruse every countenance, in order, it would seem, that he might estimate the degree of resistance that still remained to be overcome. At length, assuming a stern aspect, and modulating his voice to a tone of hoarse and triumphant bitterness, he announced his text from Proverbs-" The scorner shall scorn alone." My pen, thou art a feeble thing; I will not trust thee in the attempt to describe the harangue that followed-the task surpasses thy powers. I can only say, that from beginning to ending, it was as disgusting and horrid a melange as the alphabet of the English, or any other tongue, was ever combined to form. His soul revelled in the infernal pictures which his fancy drew he completely personated the deity of his own descriptions; his countenance, voice, attitudes, all evinced, that, for the time, he imagined himself the almighty avenger of human crime : and with what eagerness did his ears drink in the groans and shrieks of suffering spirits, from his ideal abyss of wrath! "Ye shall scorn alone!" he tauntingly responded again and again, as he imitated these cries with his own hoarse tones, and fancied them realities. "Water! water! for my burning tongue!!" "Ah! ye wretched sinners! where now are your insulting scoffs at God's people? You are each too much occupied with your individual agonies, I trow, to unite longer in this business; and now to all eternity you must ‘scorn alone !'”
Such was the closing exercise of this twelve-days' meetingsuch the sermon that had wrought so powerfully upon poor Bridget Bounce, which was "something about getting religion," she believed, and the text for which was found, she expected, somewhere in the book of Paul !"
How much of happiness, hope, intellect, has been wrecked beyond repair, and how much of family and social discord has been engendered, by extravagant and fanatical proceedings, bearing the name of religious worship, the omniscient God alone is capable of determining: a few local details only fall within the range of mortal ken. I have not taken it upon me to ascertain the result of the operations on THE POINT-I know, however, that a lad of very bright promise, in his 16th year, a clerk and chief agent in the employ of an eminent member of the bench in that county, was converted by their means into a maniac for life. I also know that the meeting utterly failed of effecting the object for which it was gotten up; that on the contrary, it even had a reaction against it, as might have been foreseen by the agents in the business, had not the adage, “whom the gods purpose to destroy, they first make mad," had some kind of verification in their case.
The public there had been advertised that a traveling advocate of the universal love of heaven would preach in their academy on the evening of the day which was to close the long meeting. The famous Mr. F adverted to this fact in his sermon in the morning, with ineffable contempt; he cautioned his people at the peril of their souls against hearing the stranger, and ended his notice of him by very charitably assigning him a final doom amongst those who "shall scorn alone." This very allusion to the stranger, induced one of his hearers, a transient sojourner on THE POINT, to resolve, for the first time in his life, on hearing this new doctrine for himself; not, however, with the remotest intention of believing a word of it but in this he was greatly and agreeably disappointed, for at the close of the sermon, which was nowise remarkable for talent, either in the composition or delivery, but was somewhat so for an unaffected simplicity of arrangement and diction, he arose before all present and avowed himself a convert to its doctrine, declaring that he had never before heard preaching which so came home to his understanding, and carried conviction to his judgment, as did that.
Poor Waters! he soon experienced that he had pushed out his
skiff on a troubled sea. Supposing that all might be convinced by the evidence which had satisfied his own mind, he began zealously to advocate his new faith. Ha, ha! he found very few disposed to even hear him! not even to hear him quote from the bible! and of those too whom he had often heard confess themselves as 66 poor, erring mortals," and with much affected humiliation, pray that God would "lead the blind by a way that they knew not,” and “set their feet in the paths of truth." His own brother, a deacon of the church, to visit whom he had traveled some hundreds of miles, actually denied him the hospitalities of his house, for the sin of having therein given utterance to his newly acquired views, and he was therefore fain to take up his lodgings at one of the public inns of the place! Even such is but too frequently the triumph, which the dark spirit of human creeds achieves in the hearts of men, over the heaven-born spirit of charity.
We mortals, and those of us too who term ourselves christians, are very modest and unpretending beings, very; we bow ourselves humbly down before the throne of heaven, owning that we are blind and impotent, and most devoutly imploring superior guidance; when, should the Being we supplicate vouchsafe an answer to our petitions, we would spurn his instructions with scorn if they accorded not with our preconceived opinions.
A few days after our heroine had resumed her school in Universalia, a note was brought her, by a little girl, a daughter of one of the few families in the place who held a different religious faith from that which generally prevailed there. The note set forth, that, as the universalists were to hold an association in the church, on the Wednesday and Thursday evening, and as it was understood that Miss Alice purposed attending the religious services on the occasion, this was to apprise her that the writer, as one of her employers, would not consent that the school should be suspended for those two days. * "For the yuniversalers," (so ran the scrawl,) "havn't no religion in no shape nor fashon no how, and shudent ought to be kowntenansed by the peepal of God, i was willin yu shud tend the meetin on the PINT, all tho im no more a kalwinite than nothin at all, but the kalwins beleev in bein born agin, which i doo too, and i kan kownte Nanse them, bekase they may be will see like us sum day. So no more at present. DOLLY TROWLER."
"A pretty specimen, this," thought Alice, "of the ignorance and intolerance in religion, with which churches that take a high stand for sanctity of character, quite sufficiently abound! And I more than suspect that the root of all this uncharitableness lies in the doctrinal principles on which these churches are based."Alice was right—but coming from her, reared as she had been, in fanaticism, it was a large and serious concession. Facts, however, abundantly justified it. She could not but observe, that under much exterior devoutness, and connected with much scrupulosity in the observance of times and ordinances, there was in the people of her faith a too general absence of the more substantial and fundamental virtues of religion. She could no longer think that these evil fruits of a bad faith were local, with regard to the persons exhibiting them, for a very recent letter from Connecticut, written at the request of her parents by their minister, convinced her that there also a gloomy theology generated in its possessors a spirit like itself. The letter referred to, appeared to have been despatched in great haste, and expressed very great solicitude, which had, it seems, been awakened on her behalf by the perusal of the one she had written. "I was immediately aware," so it ran, "though your parents were not, that your immortal soul was in the utmost danger, from the fact that you had most unfortunately fallen in with a community of universalists, a people more to be avoided than deists or atheists, because they affect to found their faith on the scriptures, and possess a fatal talent for giving a plausible face to their impious and blasphemous tenets; I, therefore, in the name of your parents, and in consideration of your own precious eternal interests, solemnly charge you to shun them, as you would the pit of perdition! You talk of their social and moral virtues; by as much as they seem to possess these, are they the more to be dreaded, for even the arch fiend can, when it suits his purpose, transform himself into an angel of light.' You must therefore not take them for what they seem to be, but for what in fact they are, enemies to God, and to the souls of men. Their doctrine is the siren's song: it lulls the soul, by its bewitching melody, into a slumber from which many thousands of its votaries, it is to be feared, have been awaked at last by the fires that never shall be quenched. It may do to live by, but to persons of that class, the language of the poet will apply with peculiar truth.
'Fools men may live, but fools they seldom die.'
"It is rarely known that men die universalists. I hope you will pardon the freedom of this advice, and believe me to be your sincere well wisher for time and eternity. ZACCHEUS FEARON."
To this letter several postscripts were appended by different members of the family, with whom it had been left unsealed for that purpose. I will here insert but one of these, from our heroine's youngest sister, an arch and playful girl; it is as follows:
"P. S. Who the mischief are these universalists of whom parson Fearon speaks? do they look like folk, Alice? We have prayers put up in our church for all sorts of heathen; Mahometans, Hottentots, and the like; but I never heard universalists prayed for yet, therefore I think their chance for heaven is very slim, don't you, Alice? If you should ever leave our church, do turn Pagan, for every spare rag and rye-straw about here is being turned into money, to pay the way for their salvation. So no more at present, from one who never saw your soul, but loves your body dreadful well. CHARITY SHERWOOD."
In all respects Alice admired the inhabitants of Universalia, with the exception that they were less serious and devout in their general demeanor than comported with her ideas of piety; she remarked upon this defect to a very intimate companion of hers (the taller of the two young ladies described in chapter 3.) and inquired how she would account for it. "Simply, my dear Alice," was the answer, "by considering the true nature and ends of the religion of Christ. Does it not communicate glad tidings? and is it not in the nature of things for these to infuse joy into the heart? and when the spirit is joyful, will not the countenance be bathed in its light? Why, I have seen persons in the act of uniting themselves to churches termed christian, and the forms of induction were of so sombre a character, that by the time they were gone through with, the subjects, in look and bearing, resembled culprits who had been consigned over to the executioner. Surely, they or I greatly mistake the character of this religion: I identify it with all that is beautiful and happifying in morals-all that is magnanimous in action. I connect with it no hollow and driveling affectation of self-abasement, for the office of christianity is to