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person, and by none but himself; because he alone pose sessed a certain power of getting at all secrets.
I once heard of a certain king of Sicily, who built a whispering gallery in the form of an ear, through which he could hear every word his rebellious subjects uttered, though spoken ever so low. But this secret of the king of Sicily was nothing to what this great king possessed; for He had the power of knowing every thought which was conceived in the mind, though it never broke out into words, or proceeded to actions.
Now, you may be ready to think, perhaps, that these people were worse off than any others, because they were to be examined so closely, and judged so strictly. Far from it: the king was too just to expect bricks without giving them straw; he gave them, therefore, every help that they needed. He gave them a book of directions, as I before observed ; and because they were naturally short-sighted, he supplied them with a glass for reading it, and thus the most dimsighted might see, if they did not wilfully shut their eyes; but though the king invited them to open their eyes, he did not compel them; and many remained stone-blind all their lives, with the book in their hand, because they would not use the glass, nor take the proper means for reading and understanding all that was written for them. The humble and sincere learned in time to see even that part of the book which was least plainly written; and it was observed that the ability to understand it depended more on the heart than the head; an evil disposition blinded the sight, while humility operated like an eye-salve.
* Now it happened, that those who had been so lucky as to escape the punishment of the lower courts, took it into their heads that they were all very good sort of people, and of course very safe from any danger at this Great Assize. This grand intended trial, indeed, had been talked of so much, and put off so long (for it had seemed long, at least, to these shortsighted people), that many persuaded themselves it would never take place at all; and far the greater part were living away, therefore, without ever thinking about it; they went on just as if nothing at all had been done for their benefit, and as if they had no king to please, no king's son to be thankful to, no book to guide themselves by, and as if the assizes were never to come about.
But with this king " a thousand years were as one day, for he was not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness.” So, at length, the solemn period approached. Still, however, the people did not prepare for the solemnity; or rather, they prepared for it much as some of the people in our provincial towns are apt to prepare for the annual assize times; I mean by balls and feastings; and they saw their own trial come on, with as little concern as is felt by the people in our streets, when they see the judge's procession enter the town; they, indeed, comfort themselves that it is only those in the prisons who are guilty.
But when at last the day came, and every man found that he was to be judged for himself; and that, somehow or other, all his secrets were brought out, and that there was now no escape, not even a short reprieve, things began to take a more serious turn. Some of the worst of the criminals were got together debating in an outer court of the grand hall, and there they passed their time, not in compunction and tears, not in comparing their lives with what was required in that book which had been given them, but they derived a fallacious hope by comparing themselves with such as had been still more notorious offenders. • One, who had grown wealthy by rapine and oppression, but had contrived to keep within the letter of the law, insulted a poor fellow as a thief, because he had stolen a loaf of bread. 6. You were far wickeder than I was," said a citizen to his apprentice," for you drank and swore at the ale-house every Sunday night.” “Yes,” said the poor fellow, “but it was your fault that I did so, for you took no care of my soul, but spent all your Sabbaths in jaunting abroad, or in rioting at home; I might have learnt, but there was no one to teach me; I might have followed a good example, but I saw only bad ones. I sinned against less light than you did.” A drunken journeyman, who had spent all his wages on gin, rejoiced that he had not spent a great estate in bribery at elections, as the lord of his manor had done; while a perjured elector boasted that he was no drunkard, like the journeyman; and the member himself took comfort that he had never received the bribes which he had not been ashamed to offer.
I have not room to describe the awful pomp of the court, nor the terrible sounding of the trumpet which attended the judge's entrance, nor the sitting of the judge, nor the opening of the books, nor the crowding of the millions who stood before him. I shall pass over the multitudes who were tried and condemned to dungeons, and chains, and eternal fire, and to perpetual banishment from the presence of the king, which always seemed to be the saddest part of the sentence.
I shall only notice, further, a few who brought some plea of merit, and claimed a right to be rewarded by the king, and even deceived themselves so far as to think that his own book of laws would be their justification.
A thoughtless spendthrift advanced without any contrition, and said, “ that he had lived handsomely, and had hated the covetous, whom God abhorreth; that he trusted in that passage of the book which said, that covetousness was idolatry;' and that he therefore hoped for a favorable sentence." Now, it proved that this man had not only avoided covetousness, but that he had even left his wife and children in want, through his excessive prodigality. The judge, therefore, immediately pointed to that place in the book where it is written,“ he that provideth not for his household is worse than an infidel. He that liveth in pleasure is dead while he liveth.” “ Thou," said he, “in thy lifetime, receivedst thy good things, and now thou must be tormented.”
Then a miser, whom hunger and hoarding had worn to skin and bone, crept forward, and praised the sentence passed on this extravagant youth; “ And surely,” said he, “ since he is condemned, I am the man that may make some plea to favor. I was never idle or drunk. I kept my body in subjection. I have been so self-denying, that I am certainly a saint. I have loved neither father nor mother, nor wife nor children to excess. In all this I have obeyed the book of the law." Then the judge said, “But where are thy works of mercy and thy labors of love ? See that family which perished in thy sight, last hard winter, while thy barns were overflowing: that poor family were my representatives; yet they were hungry, and thou gavest them no meat. Go to, now, thou rich man, weep and howl for the miseries that are come upon you. Your gold and your silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.'"
Then came up one with a most self-sufficient air. He walked up boldly, having in one hand the plan of an hospital, which he had built, and in the other the drawing of a statue, which was erecting for him in the country that he had just left; and on his forehead appeared, in gold letters, the list of all the public charities to which he had subscribed. He seemed to take great pleasure in the condemnation of the miser, and said, “ Lord, when saw I thee hungry, and fed thee not; or in prison, and visited thee not? I have visited the fatherless and widow in their affliction." Here the judge cut him short, by saying, “ True, thou didst visit the fatherless,
but didst thou fulfil equally that other part of my command, 'to keep thyself unspotted from the world'?-No, thou wast conformed to the world in many of its sinful customs, 'thou didst follow a multitude to do evil; thou didst love the world and the things of the world;' and the motive to all thy charities was not a regard to me, but to thy own credit with thy fellow-men. Thou hast done every thing for the sake of rep utation, and now thou art vainly trusting in thy deceitful works, instead of putting all thy trust in my son, who has offered himself to be a surety for thee. Where has been that humility and gratitude to him which was required of thee. No, thou wouldst be thine own surety; thou hast trusted in thyself; thou hast made thy boast of thine own goodness; thou hast sought after, and thou hast enjoyed, the praise of men, and verily I say unto thee, • Thou hast had thy reward.'”
A poor, diseased, blind cripple, who came from the very hospital which this great man had built, then fell prostrate on his face, crying out, “ Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!" on which the judge, to the surprise of all, said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The poor man replied, “ Lord, I have done nothing !” “But thou hast suffered well," said the judge; “thou hast been an example of patience and meekness; and, though thou hadst but few talents, yet thou hast well improved those few; thou hadst time—this thou didst spend in the humble duties of thy station, and also in earnest prayer; thou didst pray even for that proud founder of thine hospital, who never prayed for himself; thou wast, indeed, 'blind and lame, but it is no where said, My son, give me thy feet, or thine eyes, but give me thy heart'; and even the few faculties I did grant thee, were employed to my glory, with thine ears thou didst listen to my word ; with thy tongue thou didst show forth my praise; ' enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'”
There were several who came forward, and boasted of some single and particular virtue, in which they had been supposed to excel. One talked of his generosity, another of his courage, and a third of his fortitude ; but it proved, on a close examination, that some of those supposed virtues were merely the effect of a particular constitution of body; that others proceeded from a false motive, and that not a few of them were actual vices, since they were carried to excess; and under the pretence of fulfilling one duty, some other duty was lost sight of: in short, these partial virtues were none of them practised in obedience to the will of the king, but merely to please the person's own humor, or to gain praise, and they
would not, therefore, stand this day's trial, for he that had kept the whole law, and yet had wilfully and habitually offended in any one point, was declared guilty of breaking the whole.
At this moment a sort of thick scales fell from the eyes of the multitude. They could now no longer take comfort, as they had done for so many years, by measuring their neighbors' conduct against their own. Each at once saw himself in his true light, and found, alas! when it was too late, that he should have made the book which had been given him his rule of practice before, since it now proved to be the rule by which he was to be judged. Nay, every one now thought himself even worse than his neighbor, because, while he only saw and heard of the guilt of others, he felt his own in all its aggravated horror.
To complete their confusion, they were compelled to acknowledge the justice of the judge who condemned them; and also to approve the favorable sentence by which thousands of other criminals had not only their lives saved, but were made happy and glorious beyond all imagination; not for any great merits which they had to produce, but in consequence of their sincere repentance, and their humble acceptance of the pardon offered to them by the king's son. One thing was remarkable, that whilst most of those who were condemned never expected condemnation, but even claimed a reward for their supposed innocence or goodness, all who were really rewarded and forgiven, were sensible that they owed their pardon to a mere act of grace, and they cried out with one voice,“ Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise!”