Of all impositions on the public, the greatest seems to be death. It resembles the threatening faces on each side the Treasury. Or rather, it is a necessary bar to our tendency to move forward. Nature sends us out of her hand with such an impetus towards increase of enjoyment, that something is obliged to be set up at the end of the avenue we are in, to moderate our bias, and make us enjoy the present being. Death serves to make us think, not of itself, but of what is about us.
DEGRADING IDEAS OF DEITY
The superstitious, in their contradictory representations of God, call him virtuous and benevolent out of the same passion of fear as induces them to make him such a tyrant. They think they shall be damned if they do not believe him the tyrant he is described:—they think they shall be damned also, if they do not gratuitously ascribe to him the virtues incompatible with damnation. Being so unworthy of praise, they think he will be particularly angry at not being praised. They shudder to think themselves better; and hasten to make amends for it, by declaring themselves as worthless as he is worthy.
GREAT DISTINCTION TO BE MADE IN BIGOTS
There are two sorts of religious bigots, the unhealthy and the unfeeling. The fear of the former is mixed with humanity, and they never succeed in thinking themselves favourites of God, but their sense of security is embittered, by aversions which they dare not own to themselves, and terror for the fate of those who are not so lucky. The unfeeling bigot is a mere unimaginative animal, whose thoughts are confined to the snugness of his own kennel, and who would have a good one in the next world as well as in this. He secures a place in heaven as he does in the Manchester coach or a Margate hoy. Never mind who suffers outside, woman or child. We once found ourselves by accident on board a Margate hoy, which professed to “sail by Divine Providence.” Walking about the deck at night to get rid of the chillness which would occasionally visit our devotions to the starry heavens and the sparkling sea, our foot came in contact with something white, which was lying gathered up in a heap. Upon stooping down, we found it to be a woman. The methodists had secured all the beds below, and were not to be disturbed.
The very felicity of life itself, which depends upon the tranquillity and contentment of a well-descended spirit, and the resolution and assurance of a well-ordered soul, ought never to be attributed to any man till he has first been seen to play the last, and, doubtless, the hardest act of his part.
Let us disarm him of his novelty and strangeness, let us converse and be familiar with him, and have nothing so frequent in our thoughts as death.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.