Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

they make of it to posterity, not only leaving the example, but dictating the very materials for the practice; like family lies handed on from father to son, till whạt begun in forgery ends in history, and we make our lies be told for truth by all our children that come after lis.

If any man object here that the preceding volumes of this work seem to be hereby condemned, and the history which I have therein published of myself censured, I demand in justice such objector stay his censure till he sees the end of the scene, when all that mystery shall discover itself, and I doubt not but the work shall abundantly justify the design, and the design abundantly justify the work.

CHAPTER FOUR

AN ESSAY ON THE PRESENT STATE OF RELIGION

IN THE WORLD

[ocr errors]

N that part of my work which may be called history, I have frequently mentioned the unconquerable impressions which dwelt upon my mind and filled up all my desires, immova

bly pressing me to a wandering, travelling life, and which pushed me continually on from one adventure to another, as you have heard.

There is an inconsiderate temper which reigns in our minds, that hurries us down the stream of our affections by a kind of involuntary agency, and makes us do a thousand things, in the doing of which we propose nothing to ourselves but an immediate subjection to our will, that is to say, our passion, even without the concurrence of our understandings, and of which we can give very little account after 't is done.

You may now suppose me to be arrived, after a long course of infinite variety on the stage of the world, to the scene of life we call old age, and that I am writing these sheets in a season of my time when (if ever) a man may be supposed capable of making just reflections upon things past, a true judgment of things present, and tolerable conclusions of things to come.

In the beginning of this life of composure (for now, and not till now, I may say that I began to live, that is to say, a sedate and composed life), I inquired of myself very seriously one day what was the proper business of old age. The answer was very natural, and indeed returned quick upon me, namely, that two things were my present work, as above:

1. Reflection upon things past.
2. Serious application to things future.

Having resolved the business of life into these heads, I began immediately with the first ; and as sometimes I took my pen and ink to disburden my thoughts when the subject crowded in fast upon me, so I have here communicated some of my observations for the benefit of those that come after me.

About the time that I was upon these inquiries, being at a friend's house, and talking much of my long travels, as you know travellers are apt to do, I observed an ancient gentlewoman in the company listened with a great deal of attention, and, as I thought, with some pleasure, to what I was saying ; and after I had done, “Pray, sir," says she, turning her speech to me, “ give me leave to ask you a question or two." “With all my heart, madam,” said I; so we began the following short dialogue :

Old Gent. Pray, sir, in all your travels, can you tell what is the world a-doing? What have you observed to be the principal business of mankind?

Rob. Cru. Truly, madam, 't is very hard to answer such a question, the people being so differently employed, some one way, and some another; and particularly according to the several parts of the world through which our observations are to run, and according to the differing manners, customs, and circumstances of the people in every place.

old. Gent. Alas! sir, that is no answer at all to me, because I am not a judge of the differing customs and manners of the people you speak of; but is there not one common end and design in the nature of men, which seems to run through all their actions, and to be formed by Nature as the main end of life, and by consequence is made the chief business of living ? Pray, how do they spend their time ?

R. C. Nay; now, madam, you have added a question to the rest of a different nature from what, if I take you right, you meant at first.

ou Gent. What question, sir?

R. C. Why, how mankind spend their time ; for I cannot say that one-half of mankind spend their time in what they themselves may acknowledge to be the main end of life.

Old Gent. Pray, don't distinguish me out of my question ; we may talk of what is the true end of life, as we understood it here in a Christian country, another time ; but take my question as I offer it, what is mankind generally a-doing as their main business?

R. C. Truly, the main business that mankind seems to be doing is to eat and drink ; that's their enjoyment, and to get food to eat is their employment, including a little their eating ,and devouring one another.

Ol Gent. That's a description of them as brutes.

R. C. It is so in the first part, namely, their living to eat and drink ; but in the last part they are worse than the brutes ; for the brutes destroy not their own kind, but all prey upon a different species ; and besides, they prey upon one another for necessity, to satisfy their hunger, and for food ; but man for baser ends, such as avarice, envy, revenge, and the like, devours his own species, nay, his own flesh and blood, as my Lord Rochester very well expresses it:

But judge yourself, I'll bring it to the test,
Which is the basest creature, man or beast ?
Birds feed on birds, beasts on each other prey,
But savage man alone does man betray.

Pressed by necessity, they kill for food,
Man undoes man, to do himself no good.
With teeth and claws, by Nature armed they hunt,
Nature's allowance to suppy their want :/
But man with smiles, embraces, friendship, praise,
Inhumanly his fellow's life betrays.
With voluntary pains works his distress,
Not for necessity, but wantonness.

Old Gent. All this I believe is true ; but this does not reach my question yet. There is certainly something among them which is esteemed as more particularly the end of life and of living than the rest; to which they apply in common as the main business, and which is always esteemed to be their wisdom to be employed in. Is there not something that is apparently the great business of living ?

R. C. Why, really, madam, I think not. For ex. ample: great part of the world, and a greater part by far than we imagine, is resolved into the lowest degeneracy of human nature, I mean, the savage life; where the chief end of life seems to be merely to eat and drink, that is to say, to get their food, just as the brutal life is employed, and indeed with very little difference between them; for except only speech and idolatry, I see nothing in the life of some whole nations of people, and for ought I know, containing millions of souls, in which the life of a lion or an elephant in the deserts of Arabia is not equal.

old Gent. I could mention many things, sir, in which they might differ, but that is not the present thing I inquire about; but, pray, sir, is not religion the principal business of mankind in all the parts of the world ? for I think you granted it when you named idolatry, which they, no doubt, call religion.

R. C. Really, madam, I cannot say it is ; because, what with ignorance on one hand, and hypocrisy on the other, 't is very hard to know where to find religion in the world."

( 113 )

VOL. III. -8

« AnteriorContinuar »