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haunt your mind, and sometimes even intrude upon you unseasonably? And when you are actually on your journey, especially if you have never been to that place before, or are likely to remain there, don't you begin to think a little about the pleasures and the employments of the place, and to wish to know a little what sort of a city London or York is? Don't you wonder what is doing there ? and are you not anxious to know whether you are properly qualified for the business or the company you expect to be engaged in ? Do you never look at the map, or consult Brookes's Gazetteer? And don't you try to pick up from your fellow-passengers in the stagecoach any little information you can get ? And though you may be obliged, out of civility, to converse with them on common subjects, yet do not your secret thoughts still run upon London or York, its business, or its pleasures ? And, above all, if you are likely to set out early, are you not afraid of over-sleeping ? and does not that fear keep you upon the watch, so that you are commonly up and ready before the porter comes to summon you? Reader, if this be your case, how surprised you will be to hear that the travellers to the
far country have not half your prudence, though embarked on a journey of infinitely more importance, bound to a land where nothing can be sent after them, and in which, when they are once settled, all errors are irretrievable!
I observed that these pilgrims, instead of being upon the watch, lest they should be ordered off unprepared instead of laying up any provision, or even making memorandums of what they would be likely to want at the end of their journey-spent most of their time in crowds, either in the way of traffic or diversion. At first, when I saw them so much engaged in conversing with each other, I thought it a good sign, and listened attentively to their talk, not doubting but the chief turn of it would be about the climate, or treasures, or society they should probably meet with in the far
suntry. I supposed they might be also discussing about the best and safest road to it, and that each was availing himself of the knowledge of his neighbor, on a subject of equal importance to all. I listened to every party, but in scarcely any did I hear one word about the land to which they were bound, though it was their home, the place where their whole interest, expectation, and inheritance lay; to which, also, great part of their friends were gone before, and whither they were sure all the rest would follow. Instead of this, their whole talk was about the business, or the pleasures, or the fashions of the strange but bewitching country which they were merely passing through, and in
which they had not one foot of land which they were sure of calling their own for the next quarter of an hour. What little estate they had was personal, and not real, and that was a mortgaged life-hold tenement of clay, not properly their own, but only lent to them on a short, uncertain lease, of which threescore years and ten was considered as the longest period, and very few indeed lived in it to the end of the term; for this was always at the will of the Lord, part of whose prerogative it was, that he could take away the lease at pleasure, knock down the stoutest tenant at a single blow, and turn out the poor, shivering, helpless inhabitant, naked, to that far country for which he had made no provision. Sometimes, in order to quicken the pilgrim in his preparation, the Lord would break down the tenement by slow degrees; sometimes, he would let it tumble by its own natural decay; for, as it was only built to last a certain term, it would often grow so uncomfortable by increasing dilapidations, even before the ordinary lease was out, that the lodging was hardly worth keeping, though the tenant could seldom be pursuaded to think so, but fondly clung to it to the last. First, the thatch on the top of the tenement changed color; then it fell off, and left the roof bare; then, “the grinders ceased, because they were few;" then, the windows became so darkened, that the owner could scarcely see through them; then one prop fell away, then another; then the uprights became bent, and the whole fabric trembled and tottered, with every other symptom of a falling house. But, what was remarkable, the more uncomfortable the house became, and the less prospect there was of staying in it, the more preposterously fond did the tenant grow of his precarious habitation.*
On some occasions, the Lord ordered his messengers, of which he had a great variety, to batter, injure, deface, and almost demolish the frail building, even while it seemed new and strong; this was what the landlord called giving warning; but many a tenant would not take warning, and was so fond of staying where he was, even under all these inconveniences, that at last he was cast out by ejectment, not being prevailed on to leave his dwelling in a proper manner, though one would have thought the fear of being turned out would have whetted his diligence in preparing for “a better and a more enduring inheritance.” For though the people were only tenants at will in these crazy tenements, yet, through the goodness of the same Lord, they were assured
* See Eccles. xii. 1-7
that he never turned them out of these habitations before he had on his part provided for them a better, so that there was not such another landlord in the world; and though their present dwelling was but frail, being only slightly run up to serve the occasion, yet they might hold their future possession by a most certain tenure, the word of the Lord himself This word was entered in a covenant, or title-deed, consisting of many sheets; and because a great many good things were given away in this deed, a book was made, of which every soul might get a copy.
This indeed had not always been the case; because, till a few ages back, there had been a sort of monopoly in the case, and “the wise and prudent,” that is, the cunning and fraudful, had hid these things from “the babes and sucklings," that is, from the low and ignorant, and many frauds had been practised, and the poor had been cheated of their right; so that not being allowed to read and judge for themselves, they had been sadly imposed upon; but all these tricks had been put an end to more than two hundred years, when I passed through the country, and the meanest man who could read might then have a copy; so that he might see himself what he had to trust to; and even those who could not read, might hear it read once or twice every week, at least, without pay, by learned and holy men whose business it was. But it surprised me to see how few comparatively made use of these vast advantages. Of those who had a copy, many laid it carelessly by ; expressed a general belief in the truth of the title-deed, a general satisfaction that they should come in for a share of the inheritance, a general good opinion of the Lord whose word it was, and a general disposition to take his promise upon trust; always, however, intending, at a “convenient season,” to inquire further into the matter; but this convenient season seldom came; and this neglect of theirs was construed by their Lord into a forfeiture of the inheritance.
At the end of this country lay the vast gulf mentioned before; it was shadowed over by a broad and thick cloud, which prevented the pilgrims from seeing in a distinct manner what was doing behind it; yet such beams of brightness now and then darted through the cloud as enabled those who used a telescope, provided for that purpose, to see “ the substance of things hoped for;" but it was not every one who could make use of this telescope; no eye indeed was naturally disposed to it; but an earnest desire of getting a glimpse of the invisible realities, gave such a strength and steadiness to the eye which used the telescope, as enabled it to discern
many things which could not be seen by the natural sight. Above the cloud was this inscription, “The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Of these last things many glorious descriptions had been given; but as those splendors were at a distance, and as the pilgrims in general did not care to use the telescope, these distant glories made little impression. - 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 bawbles 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 them 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 every 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 anx.
iety, 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 were 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 bawbles which engaged the hearts of different travellers, such as an ell of red or blue riband, 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 further 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 be. 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 odu inventions, for some or other of which the vain possessors of the great heaps of clay had trucked and bartered them away