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an unexpected way may be prepared for our escape. If, Madam, we possess that pearl of great price which a wise merchant would sell all that he has to purchase, it becomes us to do our duty in our present circumstances, and then resign ourselves entirely to the will of God; since he who has given his own Son to die for us, will not suffer us to want any thing that is really for our advantage.
Your niece has given you an account of her conversation with Mr. Law nearly as it was conducted; only I perceive she has omitted soine few things spoken by her father not at all to his honour as a Christian. She undoubtedly suppressed them because he is her father, and because it is therefore her duty to cast a veil over his infirmities. Mr. Law gave the first offence by reviling the dissenters. Notwithstanding he is what is called a good-natured man, I perceived by some hints he dropped while we were at tea, that he could hardly bear several things that Miranda had said. At length, Mr. Clifford exclaimed, I really think, Sir, that Miss Barnwell has treated you with all the decency and respect the nature of the controversy would admit. The slut used me with some severity : but I always say that a man should never either dispute, or attempt to be a member of parliament, until he is prepared to hear the worst that can be said, both of himself and of the cause he defends.
The old gentleman, who loves to talk, said to Mr. Barnwell after Mr. Law. was gone, Pray, Sir, is this young lady always so sparing of her words? I think, Madam (turning to me those lips have not been unclosed since dinner, except to admit the edge of the painted porcelain.
Ah, my friend, cried Mr. Barnwell, shaking his head, if you had heard her and your Charles the other evening, I dare s..y you would have thought her a proper counter. part to Ben Johnson's silent woman.
Well, said Mr. Clifford, this makes good an observation which I have often made, that if persons know how to hold their tongue, it is almost certain they know how to talk. My Charles, continued le, says a great deal about you: but as I love a woman should be humble, I believe I shall keep it a secret: This, however, I must say; he was so altered when he came home, that I should not have known him, if his face had been changed as much as his mind.
I am glad to hear it, Sir, replied f. .: I do not know, Madam, said he, why you should. For my part, I do not see much necessity for it. Except in the article of religion, my boy is not a very faulty character, He is brave, generous, and humane, and neither a drunkard nor a debauchee; and these are great matters as times go. With regard to religion, I was early set against it myself, by seeing it made a trade of. Do you think the parson believes a tittle more of Christianity than I do? No, nor half of them ; nor yet a tenth part of the other half. I am amazed, therefore, at their impudence, in undertak. ing to make others believe what they do not believe them. selves; and much more so at their claiming wages, when they are conscious they deserve the pillory as impostors, Who in their senses can receive or believe a religion, which is made as mere a craft of as that of Demetrius the shrine-maker.
I am sorry, Mr. Clifford, answered I, that you cannot distinguish between the pure religion of Jesus Christ and the corruption of it, especially, as that corruption was foretold in the Revelation as minutely as if that book had been written in modern times. It was there predicted, that the kings of the earth vould support a set of spiritual merchants, who should traffic in the souls of men. Your see. ing this, Sir, come to pass, ought rather to have confirmed you in the truth of the Christian religion than have caused you to doubt it.
Yes, Madam, said he, but (you will pardon me) the miracles which have been wrought by holy jugglers in your church, many of whom have been detected in their pious frauds, are enough to make one sick of miracles. It would be a miracle indeed if I should ever believe in miracles.
Do you think, Sir, replied I, that it would be wise to conclude, from the number of counterfeit shillings, that there have been no real ones? I am sure you do not. On the contrary, the existence of counterfeits is a proof that there have been those which were genuine. But with respect to false miracles, the Scripture also informs us, that the coming of antichrist was to be after the working of Satan, with all powers, and signs, and lying wonders ; so that if wicked men had not arisen, impiously imitating the mighty power of God in their pious frauds as you justly call them, a powerful evidence would have been lost of
the truth of those miracles which are recorded in Scripture.'
And pray, Miss Neville, said he, who do you think antichrist is?
A body of people, Sir, replied I, who, under the name of Christ, are in reality opposed to Christ: and such is the church of Rome, and every other church which so far agrees with it as to render Christianity subservient to its own ambitious purposes.
I did not hesitate, Madam, to speak the truth; for I knew it must soon be discovered that I am what is called a heretic.
Mr. Barnwell was surprised. Are you in earnest, Miss Neville, said he, or in jest? I have thought ever since you have been here, that you have talked differently from what you used to do; but I am now convinced you are as much a protestant as I am. I suppose this is my daughter's doing. :I dare say she will receive no thanks from your fa. ther. Indeed, Madam, I think every person ought to keep to the religion to which he was brought up. ::
I have had a dispute with my son, said Mr. Clifford, concerning your being a catholic or a protestant; but I find I was in the wrong. He was positive, whatever your friends were, that you were not a catholic. Well, ladies, you have almost made a convert of him between you": I doubt you will not have the same success with me. Now, for instance, Miss Neville, can you seriously think that a person could possibly be restored to life after he began to putrify, as Lazarus did, and indeed must do after, in so warm a climate, he had been dead four days? I fear you will not give me so good an answer as when I asked who antichrist was. There, indeed, you hit the nail on the head; for a tribe of hireling state-priests would, I confess, be no honour to any religion.
I saw a poor man, replied I, some time past, who had found a watch that had been run over by the wheels of a waggon, and both sides of which were neariy crushed to gether. Do you think, Sir, he would be able to repair it?
I think he would not replied he.
But although, Sir, said I, this poor man might not be able to repair it, you will not deny that it was in the power of the maker to repair it. Apply this to the case of Lazarus. You and I should indeed have been foiled if we had attempted to raise Lazarus from the dead; but he
who made him was able to do it. Indeed, Sir, I may truia ly say of you, as Christ said to the Sadducees, who also disbelieved the resurrection, That you err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.
I must confess, Madam, answered he, that the comparison is plausible, though not quite convincing ; since I know very well that a watch is made by a watch-maker, but I have not equal reason, nor indeed any reason to believe, that he who was said to restore Lazarus to life was he who made him, I acknowledge, indeed, that the Scriptures, speaking concerning Jesus, declare that all things were created by him and for him, and that he is the true God and eternal life ; and I despise the meanness of those, who, in order to make the writings of the followers of Jesus tenable, explain away their obvious ineaning. They would act more like honest men, if they either received the whole, or rejected them, as I do, altogether.
I am of your mind, Sir, answered I, in that respect. But notwithstanding I approve of your not endeavouring to corrupt the Scriptures, I am sorry that you should re. ject them altogether, or in any measure ; since, although they should prove to have no foundation in truth, I am better off than you, because at least they render me happy in this world: but in case they should prove true, as I doubt not they will, you will be miserable, and I happy, in another. However, Sir, you may fancy that Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples were deceivers, you can have no assurance that that was the case; no, nor yet any foundation supported by the least probability that it was so. Therefore, Mr. Clifford is playing a desperate game, in which he has staked his soul against a feather; yes, Sir, and much less than a feather. For I can tell him what he may think to be a secret; he is very unhappy, and free quently wishes he had never existed, and even envies the happiness of the dog that follows him, and of the horse upon which he rides. He indeed strives to put away these thoughts that trouble him; but, like the stone of the fabled Sisyphus, they return upon him.
I must acknowledge, Madam, replied he, for I love to be ingenuous, that I have not been so happy as I could have wished. It is far from being pleasant to live in doubt and uncertainty, and to have all our views bounded by the grave; and I confess, I should not like when I leave the world to take a leap in the dark, if it could be prevented. But I endeavour to bear with fortitude those evils which cannot be avoided. Besides, no mortal can believe what he pleases; we assent or deny, in all cases, according to the evidence which is brought to support or invalidate the matter in question.
I told Mr. Clifford, that if this was true, then unbelief was certainly no sin. Or rather, said I, there would be no such person as a deist where the gospel is preached, or as an atheist where the sun enlightens the earth. But shall we say, that the Supreme Being has not sufficiently manifested his eternal power and godhead in the things which he has made? Does not the return of day and night, and of the different seasons, demonstrate, that he who made, still governs the universe ? The heavenly bodies, together with this earth, notwithstanding their amazing magnitude, and their distance from each other, perform their revolutions with such exactness, that it would be dishonouring them to compare them with the most curious timepiece that has ever been invented. The eye, the ear, the hand ! The creatures made for our use, and the food provided for their sustenance! But why do I mention the proofs of a God? The evidence is infinite. And yet, Sir, we find, that men do not assent to this truth in any proportion to its evidence. Sin has so biassed our judgments, that foolish men still say in their hearts, if not with their lips, that there is no God. The evidence also of the truth of revelation is not rejected because of its weakness, but in consequence of human depravity. That .. sacred book begins with an account of the creation of the world, and of the fall of our first parents, of which last truth we see and feel the dire effects every day. The next important thing recorded, is, a promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, accompanied with a declaration that there would be two different kinds of people in the world, between whom there should be a continual enmity. This is a summary view of the Old and New Testament.
Mr. Barnwell, who had been silent some time, cried out, well, Miss Neville, you may stop now; my friend and I are to be given to the devil, I know very well, without your saying any thing else. You, and my daughter, and her aunt, and perhaps half a score more, are the elect ;