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better and a more enduring inheritance.” For though the people were
At the end of this country lay the vast gulf mentioned before; it was
The glorious inheritance which lay beyond the cloud, was called “ the things above," while a multitude of trifling objects, which appeared contemptibly small when looked at through the telescope, were called, “ the things below.” Now, as we know it is nearness which gives size and bulk
to any object, it was not wonderful that these ill-judging pilgrims were more struck with these baubles and trifles, which, by lying close at hand, were visible and tempting to the naked eye, and which made up the sum of “the things below," than with the remote glories of “the things above;”. but this was chiefly owing to their not making use of the telescope, through which, if you examined thoroughly “ the things below," they seemed to shrink almost down to nothing, which was indeed their real size ; while “ the things above" appeared the more beautiful and vast, the more the telescope was used. But the surprising part of the story was this : not that the pilgrims were captivated at first sight with “ the things below,” for that was natural enough ; but that when they had tried them all over and over, and found themselves deceived and disappointed in almost
every one of them, it did not at all lessen their fondness, and they grasped at then again with the same eagerness as before.
There were some gay fruits which looked alluring, but on being opened, instead of a kernel they were found to contain rottenness; and those which seemed the fullest, often proved on trial to be quite hollow and empty. Those which were most tempting to the eye, were often found to be wormwood to the taste, or poison to the stomach, and many flowers that seemed most bright and gay had a worm gnawing at the root; and it was observable that on the finest and brightest of them was seen, when looked at through the telescope, the word Vanity inscribed in large characters.
Among the chief attractions of “ the things below” were certain little lumps of yellow clay, on which almost every eye and
heart was fixed. When I saw the variety of uses to which this clay could be converted, and the respect which was shown to those who could scrape together the greatest number of pieces, I did not much wonder at the general desire to pick up some of them. But when I beheld the anxiety, the wakefulness, the competitions, the contrivances, the tricks, the frauds, the scuffling, the pushing, the turmoiling, the kicking, the shoving, the cheating, the circumvention, the envy, the malignity, which was excited by a desire to possess this article ; when I saw the general scramble among those who had little to get much, and of those who had much to get more, then I could not help applying to these people a proverb in use among us, that gold may be bought too dear.
Though I saw that there were various sorts of baubles which engaged the hearts of different travellers, such as an ell of red or blue ribbon, for which some were content to forfeit their future inheritance, committing the sin of Esau, without his temptation of hunger; yet the yellow clay I found was the grand object for which most hands were scrambling, and most souls were risked. One thing was extraordinary, that the nearer these people were to being turned out of their tenement, the fonder they grew of these pieces of clay ; so that I naturally concluded they meant to take the clay with them to the far country, to assist them in their establishment in it; but I soon learnt this clay was not current there, the Lord having farther declared to these pilgrims, that as they “had brought nothing into this world, they could carry nothing away.”
I inquired of the different people who were raising the various heaps of clay, some of a larger, some of a smaller size, why they discovered such unremitting anxiety, and for whom? Some, whose piles were immense, told me they were heaping up for their children; this I thought very right, till, on casting my eyes round, I observed many of the children of these very people had large heaps of their own. Others told me it was for their grandchildren ; but on inquiry, I found these were not yet born, and in many cases there was little chance that they ever would. The truth, on a close examination, proved to be, that the true genuine heapers really heaped for themselves ; that it was in fact, neither for friend nor child, but to gratify an inordinate appetite of their own. Nor was I much surprised after this to see these yellow hoards at length “canker, and the rust of them become a witness against the hoarders, and eat their flesh as it were fire.”
Many, however, who had set out with a high heap of their fathers' raising, before they had got one-third of their journey had scarcely a single piece left. As I was wondering what had caused these enormous piles to vanish in so short a time, I spied scattered up and down the country all sorts of odd inventions, for some or other of which the vain possessors of the great heaps of clay had trucked and bartered them away in fewer hours than their ancestors had spent years in getting them together. O what a strange unaccountable medley it was! and what was ridiculous enough, I observed that the greatest quantity of the clay was always exchanged for things that were of no use that I could discover, owing, I suppose, to my ignorance of the manners of that country.
In one place I saw large heaps exhausted, in order to set two idle pampered horses a-running; but the worst part of the joke was, the horses did not run to fetch or carry anything, of course were of no kind of use, but merely to let the gazers see which could run fastest. Now, this gift of swiftness, exercised to no one useful purpose, was only one out of many instances, I observed, of talents employed to no end. In another place I saw whole piles of the clay spent to maintain long ranges of buildings full of dogs, on provisions which would have nicely fattened some thousands of pilgrims who sadly wanted fattening, and whose ragged tenements were out at elbows, for want of a little help to repair them. Some of the piles were regularly pulled down once in seven years, in order to corrupt certain needy pilgrims to belie their consciences, by doing that for a bribe which they were bound to do from principle. Others were spent in playing with white stiff bits of paper, painted over with red and black spots, in which I thought there must be some conjuring, because the very touch of these painted pasteboards made the heaps fly from one to another, and back again to the same, in a way that natural causes could not account for. There was another proof that there must be some magic in this business, which was, that if a pasteboard with red spots fell into a hand which wanted a black one, the person changed colour, his eyes flashed fire, and he discovered other symptoms of madness, which showed there was some witchcraft in the case. These clean little pasteboards, as harmless as they looked, had the wonderful power of pulling down the highest piles in less time than all the other causes put together. I observed that many small piles were given in exchange for an enchanted liquor, which when the purchaser lad drunk to a little excess, he lost all power of managing the rest of his heap, without losing the love of it; and thus the excess of indulgence, by making him a beggar, deprived him of that very gratification on which his heart was set.
Now I find it was the opinion of sober pilgrims, that either hoarding the clay, or trucking it for any such purposes as the above, was thought exactly the same offence in the eyes of the Lord; and it was expected that when they should come under his more immediate jurisdiction in the “far country," the penalty annexed to hoarding and squandering would be nearly the same. While I examined the countenances of the owners of the heaps, I observed that those who I well knew never intended to make any use at all of their heap, were far more terrified at the thought of losing it, or of being torn from it, than those were who were employing it in the most useful manner. Those who best knew what to do with it, set their hearts least upon it, and were always most willing to leave it. But such riddles were common in this odd country. It was indeed a very land of paradoxes.
Now I wondered why these pilgrims, who were naturally made erect, with an eye formed to look up to “ the things above,” yet had their eyes almost constantly bent in the other direction, riveted to the earth, and fastened“ on things below,” just like those animals who walk on all four. I was told they had not always been subject to this weakness of sight, and proneness to earth; that they had originally been upright and beautiful, having been created after the image of the Lord, who was himself the perfection of beauty; that he had, at first, placed them in a far superior situation, which he had given them in perpetuity, but that their first ancestors fell from it through pride and carelessness; that upon this the freehold was taken away, they lost their original strength, brightness, and beauty, and were driven out into this strange country; where, however, they had every opportunity given them of recovering their original health, and the Lord's favour and likeness; for they were become so disfigured, and were grown so unlike him, that you would hardly believe they were bis own children, though, in some, the resemblance was become again visible.
The Lord, however, was so merciful, that, instead of giving them up to the dreadful consequences of their own folly, as he might have done without any impeachment of his justice, he gave them immediate comfort, and promised them that, in due time, his own Son should come down and restore them to the future inheritance, which he should purchase for them. And now it was, that, in order to keep up their spirits, after they had lost their estate through the folly of their ancestors, that he began to give them a part of their former title-deed. He continued to send them portions of it from time to time by different faithful servants; whom, however, these ungrateful people generally used ill, and some of whom they murdered. But for all this, the Lord was so very forgiving, that he at length sent these mutineers a proclamation of full and free pardon by his Son. This son, though they used him in a more cruel manner than they had done any of his servants, yet, after having “ finished the work his Father gave him to do,” went back into the far country, to prepare a place for all them who believe in him; and there he still lives, begging and pleading for those unkind people, whom he still loves and forgives, and will restore to the purchased inheritance on the easy terms of their being heartily sorry for what they have done, thoroughly desirous of pardon, and convinced that “ He is able and willing to save to the utmost all them that come unto him.".
I saw, indeed, that many old offenders appeared to be sorry for what they had done; that is, they did not like to be punished for it. They were willing enough to be delivered from the penalty of their guilt, but they did not heartily wish to be delivered from the power of it. Many declared, in the most public manner, once every week, that they were very sorry they had done amiss; " that they had erred and strayed like lost sheep;" but it was not enough to declare their sorrow ever so often, if they gave no other sign of their penitence. For there was so little truth in them, that the Lord required other proofs of their sincerity besides their own word, for they often lied with their lips and dissembled with their tongue. But those who professed to be penitents must give some outward proof of it. They were neither allowed to raise heaps of clay, by circumventing their neighbours, or to keep great piles lying by them useless; nor must they barter them for any of those idle vanities which reduced the heaps on a sudden; for I found that among the grand articles of future reckoning, the use they had made of the heaps would be a principal one.
I was sorry to observe many of the fairer part of these pilgrims spend too much of their heaps in adorning and beautifying their tenements of clay, in painting, whitewashing, and enamelling them. All these tricks, however, did not preserve them from decay; and when they grew old, they even looked worse for all this cost and varnish. Some, however, acted a more sensible part, and spent no more upon their mouldering tenements than just to keep them whole and clean, and in good repair, which is what every tenant ought to do; and I observed that those who were most moderate in the care of their own tenements, were most attentive to repair and warm the ragged tenements of others. But none did this with much zeal or acceptance, but those who had acquired a habit of overlooking the things below, and who also, by the constant use of the telescope, had got their natural weak and dim sight so strengthened, as to be able to discern pretty distinctly the nature of the things aboce. The habit of fixing their eyes on these glories made all the shining trifles, which compose the mass of things below, at last appear in their own diminutive littleness. For it was in this case particularly true, that things are only big or little by comparison; and there was no other way of making the things below appear as small as they really were, but by comparing them, by means of the telescope, with the things above. But I observed that the false judgment of the pilgrims ever kept pace with their wrong practices; for those who kept their eyes fastened on the things below, were reckoned wise in their generation, while the few who looked forward to the future glories, were accounted by the bustlers, or heapers, to be either fools or mad.
Most of these pilgrims went on in adorning their tenements, adding to their heaps, grasping the things below as if they would never let them go, shutting their eyes, instead of using their telescope, and neglecting their title-deed, as if it was the parchment of another man's estate, and not of their own; till one after another each felt his tenement tumbling about
Oh! then, what a busy, bustling, anxious, terrifying, distracting moment was that! What a deal of business was to be done, and what a strange time was this to do it in! Now, to see the confusion and