notions. Government was so tossed and tolonized among them, as if the venerable economy was only fit to be made the rabble's foot-ball, and the hierarchy worried with such unmannerly contempt, between jest and earnest, as if they mistook the church to be a monster, and therefore resolved themselves into snarling whelps to have the sport of baiting her. Religion they made their business to banter into priestcraft, as if every man's breast ought to be his holy tabernacle, himself the teacher, and his own partial sentiments the only gospel by which he was to preach. If the name of priest was but started among them, to be sure they joined full cry after the sacred function, till they had forced the holy robe to run the gantlope through the company, believing themselves to be infallibly in the right, because their club, more impious than Sodom, was too wicked to have one righteous member in their whole society to let them know the contrary.

[ocr errors]


By these dimsighted conjurors, whose wilful ig norance would behold nothing beyond the reach and measure of their imperfect senses, many dangerous principles were scattered through the town, to the discouragement of piety, the overthrow of virtue, and the lessening of obedience to superior powers; that all men might set up to be their own masters, and cast off the yoke of lawful authority, which they deemed tyranny, and degenerate into a state of heathenish brutality, which they accounted freedom; that their lusts and passions might have a range un

bounded, and themselves have the honour to be thought the wise patriots, and the generous restorers of the people's liberty, who have always been observed to be most wicked, and consequently most miserable, when their tedders have been stretched to an unreasonable length, and their offences countenanced by connivance and impunity. It is a pretty comedy, that such a society, who have not gratitude enough to own him that made them, should set themselves up for state directors, and pious instructors of morality and good manners, when they never met but in contempt of heaven: they did their grand master the devil more kindness upon earth than twice the number of his infernal emissaries.

Among the rest of the infidels who had the honour to make up this antichristian society, there was a famous physician, that in spite of his art was forced many years since to try the grand experiment, who was so thoroughly confirmed in the mortality of the soul, that he would frequently say that he had no more than a goose, and therefore thought it not worth looking after; but, says a modest gentleman in return to the doctor, had you but half the brains of a goose, you would be of another opinion. How.. ever, the physician was very eminent in his profession, and accounted a man of wit; and being drinking one night in his Atheistical Society, a surprising storm happened to arise of a sudden, insomuch that the flashes of lightning, and violence of the thunder, struck a visible terror upon several of the company,


and put a great damp to their profane merriment. The storm increasing to an unusual extremity, a gentleman in the company, under a great astonishment, happened to thus express himself: Bless us! what's the meaning it thunders so excessively? I'll tell you, Sir, cries the doctor, the gods' canns are empty, and they are clacking the lids for more nectar. At such sort of repartees he had a ready wit, especially when the jest would admit of any profaneness, which unhappy talent had infected the whole society'; that to banter religion, ridicule the priesthood, and make a mock of what was good and holy, were their principal diversions.

A knot of merry gentlemen frequenting the same tavern, and hearing what a profane society used to constantly meet in the next room to them, they laid their heads together to consult of ways and means how to try the resolutions of these daring sons of thunder, by some surprising adventure that might give a startling shock to their atheistical infidelity. The better to accomplish their commendable undertaking, they appointed a meeting at Posture Clark's tavern, in order to engage him in their intended. project; who being singularly qualified for the design in hand, and being a man forward enough in such sort of unluckiness, he presently consented to give them his assistance. When they were thus agreed, a night was appointed for the execution of their frolic. Accordingly at the time prefixed they met Clark at the tavern, who brought under his

cloak a bear's skin, which he had long kept by him for such sort of adventures. When they were in this readiness, having often heard the vintner wish the club at the devil for bringing a scandal upon his house, they thought it not improper to make him acquainted with their jocular contrivance; who was well enough pleased with their whim in agitation, and promised to be aiding in all he could, and to give them notice when it was most convenient for their sham devil to make his personal appearance. When they had thus far proceeded, and most of the libertines, according to custom, were met together in their club-room, they thought it high time for Old Nick's representative to shift off his human apparel, and to lace himself into his diabolical jacket. ; which was no sooner done, but the vintner informed them that the club were all very busy in ridiculing religion, and making a jest of damnation, say➡ ing himself would 'step in and snuff the candles, that Satan might the better sneak in behind him upon all fours, and unperceived put himself in a corner, till he found a seasonable opportunity of performing what he intended. Accordingly they proceeded with very good effect, and the devil possessed himself of a convenient post without discovery, where he lay perdue for some time; till at last one of the hot-headed members, amongst the rest of their atheistical discourse, happened to say, that he wondered the majority of mankind could be so silly as to believe there were any such goblins as


ghosts or apparitions, since he was well satisfied that the devil himself, which the priests made such a bustle about, was nothing more than a poetical fiction: Upon which words, the foul fiend in the corner made a damnable yawn, which occasioned the whole society, in a terrible surprise, to direct their eyes towards the place from whence the noise was emitted, where they beheld the bear playing fifty monky tricks, as if he was as mad as a March hare. Zds, says one, there's the devil indeed, come for some of the society. That's true, cries the bear in a tremendous voice: Is it so ? cries a fat gentleman; then take a lean one. And away he scoured down stairs, with the rest after him, as if the devil drove them, leaving only a Scotch gentleman behind them, who having more courage than the rest, resolved to be further satisfied; upon which the bear advances, and raising himself upright, claps his two fore paws upon the upper end of the table: the Scotchman not caring to sit within his reach, began to sidle to a greater distance; upon which the bear fills a bumper of claret, gives the Scotchman a nod, and takes it off at a gulp. Marry, Sir Deel, cries the Scot, ye have a gude swallow to your wem. always whet before I devour, cries the bear: With that the Scotchman sidled a little farther, not yet satisfied whether the devil was in jest or earnest; at length recovering a little more courage, very civily cried, Wol ye smauk a peep?-Will ye be mine? replies the devil, in the hoarse voice of a


« VorigeDoorgaan »