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After this, I could not greatly wonder at seeing a man, who had entrenched himself by the pillar of DEISM, dash his model to pieces, declaring that " he had found the right pillar, and that therefore the model must be wrong;" although I could not help thinking his conduct a little preposterous.
By this time, however, I had got plainly out of the pale of the temple; and I therefore returned into the interior. Here I was much interested by discerning, with tolerable clearness five or six pillars close together, all of which, by so dim a light, seemed extremely to resemble the model. Among these pillars were a few pilgrims, who appeared to feel a real anxiety lest they should be guilty of a wrong choice; and I watched them with not a little curiosity.
I soon found that they could not altogether agree on the golden pillar, though all were convinced that among these five or six it was to be found. Orthopus was attracted by a pillar, which bore the inscription scriptural truth. Remembering, however, that the inscriptions were not to be implicitly trusted, he closely examined the base and lower parts of the pillar, and after some time clearly made out that they were of gold and extremely solid. Here he fixed his choice. His friend Ethicus begged him to observe, that the rest of the pillar did not appear to correspond, either in strength or in materials, to the base; but Orthopus was confident of his good fortune, declaring that "a good foundation was every thing, and that the superstructure might take care of itself." He forgot that, though a good foundation is indispensable, yet its only use is, to support a good superstructure. The morning proved his pillar to be that of ANTINO
Ethicus made choice of another, entitled practical religion. In spite of the gloom, he could easily perceive that its materials were extremely bright, and its shape beautiful. Orthopus called out to him, as he gently struck it, that it was certainly hollow, by the sound it returned; but Ethicus would not listen; nor did he discover, what a little attention would have shown him, that his pillar was beautiful only when seen from one side, that in other views it plainly seemed crooked, and that it was altogether hollow, and made of some base metal gilded. Ethicus would have perhaps started, had he suspected that he was clinging to the pillar of PELAGIANISM.
A pillar entitled the good old cause mightily pleased Docilis. He was charmed with some old characters, resembling hieroglyphics, which, on a close inspection, it could be perceived to bear
in relief. Eusebes and Biblicus, who assisted in the inspection, assured him that, though these old characters were of gold, yet the substance of the pillar was nothing but cypress-wood, stuffed with some old parchments, which were here and there discernible through large cracks in the wood. Docilis was blind to all this, while he expatiated on the antiquity of these mystic inscriptions, and the wisdom they probably contained. The pillar was afterwards found to be that of TRADITIONAL FAITH.
Eusebes and Biblicus passed on to another, the apparent richness of which, when they advanced very near it, arrested them both. But Eusebes could not help suspecting this glitter, and, on gently rubbing it, found he displaced a quantity of gold dust, which flew into his eyes and blinded him for some seconds. He was then convinced that the pillar was built of some base materials, to which the gold dust had been made to adhere, and determined to quit it. All this, however, had a contrary effect on Biblicus. The dust so filled his eyes, that he could no longer distinctly see either the pillar or his model; and he, therefore, remained satisfied that his search had been crowned with success, no means being left to him of detecting his error. This pillar bore the title of the good fight of faith, but the day light proved Biblicus to have chosen the pillar of POLEMICAL RELIGION.
Eusebes now betook himself to a pillar entitled Christianity, which both he and his friends had already passed by, partly on account of its dark and unpromising appearance, and partly perhaps, because it bore so general a title; but it now occurred to Eusebes that this title was in fact a very comprehensive one, and that, after all, the title was of little consequence. He approached therefore this pillar, and examined it very narrowly. He was roused on observing, that wherever he brushed away the dust upon it, gold made its appearance, as he could plainly discern. He therefore inspected it on all sides, and compared it again and again with the model, and at last could not forbear hoping that he had found the invaluable golden pillar.
I own that, even without paying any particular attention to the pillar which Eusebes had chosen, I was much inclined to think that he had chosen aright; and that for the following
1. He was the only one of the pilgrims, who was not content with examining his pillar only once, but even after he had taken his stand, most carefully repeated the examination from time to time. None of the pilgrims could help being occasionally troubled with the apprehension of having made a wrong choice; but the
rest seemed always to quiet their fears with recollecting the care they had taken in choosing at first: they even seemed afraid of examining again, lest they should discover some flaw, and unsettle their opinions. Eusebes alone, whenever he was perplexed with doubts, always began the examination afresh, and still more minutely than before; and I could remark that the result of this plan was a growing acquiescence in his original choice.
2. Eusebes not only examined repeatedly, but also much more minutely and impartially than his brother-pilgrims. Each of them appeared willing to dwell on some particular excellence in his favourite pillar, and to console himself with the possession of this for the want of the rest. If Docilis was told that his pillar, though it very accurately agreed with the model in its shape, was yet manifestly full of cracks and flaws, he would immediately answer that "it was a great thing to have the shape so exactly." If Orthopus was desired to observe that the upper part of his pillar had no symmetry or even shape, he would instantly begin to boast of the solidity of its foundation. If you hinted to Ethicus that, in many points of view, his pillar did not appear to be properly poised on its base, he would stop you short with exclaiming, "These minutiæ are of no consequence; you must attend only to the general effect." But Eusebes, whenever any apparent imperfection was pointed out to him, lost not a moment in setting himself to examine the matter with seriousness..
3. Eusebes diligently availed himself of occasional circumstances to try the soundness of his choice. Whenever a gust of wind swept through the temple, or the passing of a cloud left the heavens brighter for a few moments, he would seize the opportunity, either of observing the strength, or of examining the shape of his pillar. It was otherwise with his companions. If (for example) their pillars were shaken by the wind, (and this, I observed, they all were, except that of Eusebes) they would say, "No wonder ;-such a storm as this would shake a rock of adamant;"—and this spirit they always evinced, though in various forms.
4. The spirit in which Eusebes made these various examinations, and which uniformly distinguished him, was materially different from the spirit discovered by the rest of the pilgrims. He was always humble and self-diffident: they were positive and self-satisfied. He alone gave advice with kindness, and received it without impatience. He appeared by far the most earnest in warning his friends of the error of their choice, and in inviting them to try their fortune at the same pillar with himself. In the
others I discovered an uneasiness, and methought a growing uneasiness, at receiving any caution or admonition from their neighbours. If their choice was blamed, they were fond of recriminating; and, if invited to alter their stand, they would decline it with haughtiness. If this asperity of manner discovered itself more in any of them than in the rest, it was in Orthopus and Biblicus. In all of them, however, there seemed a lurking consciousness, that every thing was not right.
For these and some other similar reasons, I could not help thinking that Eusebes had been successful in his choice. Methought I perceived that he himself being, as I have already said, more and more convinced of it, perpetually renewed his remonstrances with his friends. They heard him with the same ill humour as before, till at last one of them (I did not observe which) disdainfully exclaimed, "Pray, Eusebes, keep your good advice to yourself: I really long to be delivered from your importunity; and I therefore wish you joy of your choice till the morning.”
At the mention of the word morning, my mind, with the in consistency peculiar to dreams, ran in a moment through all the remaining stages of the night; and suddenly, methought, I was witness to the breaking of the brightest day that I had ever beheld. The "sun, shining in his strength," had just surmounted the horizon; a stream of effulgence shot from his orb; and all nature seemed to lie naked and open to his beams. A loud cry directed my attention to the temple. The counterfeits of the night stood all exposed at once: but what language can describe the confusion and despair of those numerous persons who now perceived, when it was too late, the error of their choice, and the folly of their conduct! One only pillar could I discover of "gold tried in the fire," glittering with the glory of day-light, and reflecting the sunbeams in every direction. But the blaze was too powerful for my sight, and I had only just time to observe that it was the pillar of Eusebes, when I started from my sleep.
Thou, whose eye is now perusing these lines, remember that thou thyself art at this moment in the TEMPLE; that there is but ONE GOLDEN PILLAR; and, that the morning is at hand!
AUGUSTINE, in the 3d book of his Confessions, as given us by Mr. Milner, in his History of the Church of Christ, vol. ii. p. 342, mentions the following anecdote of his mother Monica, which may be considered, especially when we connect it with the future
conversion of her son, as a remarkable encouragement to the prayers of parents for their children.
"I remember also," they are the words of Austin, “that she intreated a certain bishop to undertake to reason me out of my errors. He was a person not backward to attempt this, where he found a docile subject. But your son,' says he, is too much elated at present, and carried away with the pleasing novelty of his error, to regard any arguments; as appears by the pleasure he takes in puzzling many ignorant persons with his captious questions. Let him alone; only continue praying to the Lord for him; he will in the course of his study discover his error. I myself, perverted by my mother, was once a Manichee, and read almost all their books, and yet at length was convinced of my error, without the help of any disputant.' All this satisfied not my anxious parent; with floods of tears she persisted in her request, when at last he, a little out of temper on account of her importunity, said, Be gone, good woman; it is not possible that a child of such tears should perish.' She has often told me since, that this answer impressed her mind like a voice from heaven."
INFIDELITY AND CREDULITY.
THE following extract from Thiebault's original Anecdotes of Frederic II. of Prussia, affords a strong proof of what has been more than once affirmed, respecting the perfect consistency of infidelity with superstitious terrors.
"On the same canvas with this philosophical king, Frederic, we view, a Le Metherie, the apostle of universal materialism, making the sign of the cross if it does but thunder. Maupertuis, who does not believe in God, says his prayers every evening on his knees. D'Argens, a still firmer infidel, shudders if he counts the number thirteen round a table. The princess Amelia, the favourite sister of Frederic, almost as much a philosopher, and endowed with almost as strong an intellect as himself, is the dupe of fortune tellers. And full half the court are believers in the story of the woman all in white, who appeared in one of the apartments of the palace, holding in her hand a large broom, with which she swept the apartment, when any member of the royal family was to die in the course of the year."