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Slump not up these facts, as Emerson does, under the general term, "the wisdom of children;" the question recurs, “Whence have they their wisdom, having never learned?” That sin and Satan have something to do with children, I deny not, else they would never suffer nor so die; but that Christ has something far more to do with them, I believe,—and I hear the testimony which those little children, "crying in the temple," gave to him during the days of his flesh, reverberated by myriads of voices since, and swelled, besides, by those of child-like men in every age and in every family of mankind. Wordsworth saw this truth, in part, when he said— "Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
Trailing clouds of glory do we come
We are fast, I believe, coming to the alternative, the religion of the philosopher, or that of the babe,-referring here not specially to my version of it, but to the general child-like spirit and principles of Christianity, the religion of Him whom I have sometimes called "the Eternal Child." The question amounts simply to this,—Are we to become for ever the bond-slaves of matter, and its confused and contradictory phenomena; to sing esto perpetua to the fearful farce or tragedy going on, and to call that "all God's," of which we know a large portion to belong to the Devil, the world, and the flesh; or are we to entertain the belief, chiefly on the evidence of our own souls, echoing the words of the Book, that a divine principle or power is working against innumerable adversaries in the universe, and is, through the GodMan, Christ Jesus, yet to overcome, and in overcoming either to translate us, if we believe on him, out of this dark world for ever, or to fit it for the habitation of Christ's "little children, and of Christ himself?" All the tendencies of the mere intellect of the world seem running to the former; Christians should be taking their stand more and more firmly
on the latter. While yielding all that can properly be conceded to the claims of genuine science, literature, art, and philosophy, and while admiring to enthusiasm the universe in its poetical aspects, let them cling to the grand principles, supernaturalisms, and hopes of the Bible, and be prepared rather to sacrifice a thousand human systems than one "Thus saith the Lord;" rather all the stars, were it, which it is not, necessary, than one of the fringes of the garment of Him who came from above them the Teacher of Galilee.
I WOULD exhort all my readers to skip this chapter, unless they possess, along with a good deal of the speculative, a good deal also of the poetical. I have been, as I have hinted in a former chapter, all my life, and am still at forty-two, an incorrigible dreamer, both by night and by day, and I propose to recount, for the benefit of the imaginative, a few of the more remarkable of those reveries by day, and visions by night, which have crossed my spirit.
Near the cataract described in my first chapter, there was a deep pit, partly covered with brambles and trees. It was not generally known, and even those who knew, shunned it, because it bore some Gaelic name implying a tradition that "the Mouth of Hell." This, however, when I was a boy, instead of deterring, drew me to it by a kind of fascination. One Saturday afternoon in, I think, 1824, I was wandering in the wood alone, and found myself, ere I was aware, near the brink of this mysterious pit. I got up on a tree, which hung its branches right over the mouth, and was gazing down, with considerable curiosity, when lo! under my weight the branch broke, and I was precipitated in. My fall was partly broken by the bushes which lined the mouth and sides of the pit, but the fall was far enough to stun and disable me; and when I came to my consciousness, I found myself in a pit too steep and deep to be scaled, amongst stones and mud, a dim twilight around, and only a single speck of blue sky shining through the brambles, as if to mock my imprisonment. Here was a predicament! The
pit was in the centre of a solitary wood; it was shunned by many of those who did know of its existence; strange cries, it was said, had been heard from it at midnight; and how likely it was that my voice, were I to shout, would be confounded with these, if it were not drowned by the cataract which was howling at a short distance. My feelings were disagreeable enough, and as the afternoon darkened into evening, they became worse. I thought of the agony my parents would feel at my absence; I began to remember the strange stories I had heard about this pit; and the wind, which had now begun to arise, had a dreary, dirge-like sound, mingling, in melancholy concert, with the cry of the cataract. One star had come, and looked through the bushes; had shone with tantalizing brightness for an hour, and then, as if its interest in the lonely boy had been satisfied, had gone on its journey. It was succeeded by a windy gush of moonlight, which seemed how strange, sad, and ghostly, as it trembled through the trees, and went out in darkness! Then, by-andby, came the plash of rain, which although diverted by the bushes, was yet heavy enough to drench me to the skin. Now, for the first time, I felt utterly overwhelmed by the terrors of my situation, and, after crying for some time aloud for help, I burst out into a flood of tears, and continued to sob and weep till, at last, worn out by cold, hunger, and misery, I fell asleep. I remember even yet the dreams I had on that strange, wet pillow, and amidst the fierce or woful sounds which were wailing over my head. Indeed, all the particulars of that night are stamped indelibly upon my memory. My sleep was one dire fantastic dream of hell, and fiends, and fires. I imagined myself in that awful place,-not as a sufferer, but as a spectator. Methought, I saw some who had been long in the pit of perdition, and who were laughing at all new-comers, and wishing them joy of their "honeymoon of horrors ;" and others that cried that an earnest, burning reality like this was better than a deliberate lie, like earth; and others who said that perdition was no worse than famine;
and others who were going about, everywhere seeking for, but finding none to return to the world, and tell some of their relations not to come after them to this place of torment. There were, I thought, sudden Auroras of false hope, that ever and anon visited the place, and created a ghastly joy, a joy, however, which speedily passed, and was followed by a deeper darkness than before. Some there ran about in despair and fury, cursing themselves because they had not “wrought better for their wages." Others I saw, who had laid themselves down, with a pale, stedfast, maniac smile upon their faces, and were looking above for the Advent of a Deliverer. A few rushed through the crowded streets, predicting that an amnesty of madness and oblivion was speedily to be proclaimed from heaven. Other dreadful figures and sounds there were, but more confused, of men that had been there for centuries, and yet had not done wondering that they were not in heaven; of poets, trying to relieve their agonies by song; and philosophers, seeking to explain them away by sophistry, and proving that "this was the best of all possible worlds;" and of the music of awful Voices from above, speaking evidently of the lost, and even naming them: but the talk was so far off and so fragmentary that none could tell to what it pointed, whether to hope or to despair; and thus there was a new torment-that of suspense-in hell. It was a relief to awake from such dismal dreams, and to find myself in a real earthly pit. The next day, having been missed, a great possé of the villagers came to the place, and I was rescued from a most alarming adventure, which had well nigh cost me my life. I came out benumbed, hardly able to crawl, and with a shuddering recollection of my tumultuous and terrible dreams.
Some time after I read in an old magazine an account of an American minister, named Tennant, who in his youth had apparently given up the ghost. The company had met for his funeral; but it was delayed, owing to his brother, who insisted that he was not dead. He ultimately revived, but