Chapter 14

The Lay Preacher having been announced by the faculty, sui compos, and come to his reason, had been dismissed from the hospital, and had come to the new settlement. This was not a kind of Botany-Bay, to the old country, with this difference, that here, the outcasts came voluntarily, but there of force. The Governor received the Lay Preacher with courtesy, and made him his chaplain. The Sunday following he preached to a numerous congregation, in a chapel in the woods. His discourse was taken down in short hand, by the editor of the “Twilight,” and has appeared in his paper. As it would seem worth preserving, we have copied it from them, and given it in this work.

The Sermon

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: Dan. iii. 12

These are the Hebrew names for Tom, Dick, and Harry, and applicable to this settlement, which is a colluvies of all nations: Mac’s, O’s, and Ap’s; Erse, Irish, and Welsh. But, as in the garden, a variety of seeds, and plants, is desirable, so in a settlement, where the human species is about to be cultivated, and this not only for the sake of what pleases the fancy, but what is useful for the kitchen, or for medicine. So let no uncharitableness prevail among you, and one cast up to the other, their origin, former occupation, or character. I presume there would be but little to gain or lose on a fair balance, and set off, as the lawyers say, among your. But it is best to consider all accounts squared, and set out in a new partnership.

It falls to the lot of my function to see what good advice I can give you, for it is by admonition only that I can serve the commonwealth. I shall leave spiritual things to my brother, the Methodist, who is as busy as a bee in a tar-barrel yonder, raising the affections, and disturbing the imagination. I shall content myself with some things merely temporal.

The sin that most easily besets a new settler, is laziness, or to give it a more civil term, indolence. He gets the means of life easily. He sets a trap over night; or, he goes out with his gun in the morning, and kills game. The flesh serves for food, and the skin for covering. The soil is fertile, and yields, some 30, some 40, some 60, and some 100 fold. This just by a little stirring of the hoe. For you must know that I myself have been brought up in a new settlement, and know the history of such. Though that settlement, in which I was brought up is now an hundred miles below us, not by the sinking of the earth, but by the frontier pushing back, and settling beyond it. Indolence, I know, is a vice of that situation. For necessity is the mother of invention, and impels to labour.

“Duris in rebus, urgens egestas.”

Said the Latin schoolmaster. “Improbus labor omnia vincit.”

Drive out that fellow there, said the Sexton. He disturbs the congregation.

The Preacher proceeded.

Now if a man can live without working, he will not work. The cattle of a settler browzes in the woods; and subsists even in the winter, without other shelter, or food, than the under-wood, and such shrubbery as covers the head of a valley, where the soil is dry, and the spring rises. The wilderness obstructs the course of the winter winds, and the cabbin is warm on the south side of the hill. Hence the temptation to indolence.

But there is a worse sin that easily besets the settler in a new country; these especially that settle in a town, where there is usually a tavern, a store, and a race ground for the horse jockies. This sin, or vice, is intemperance. Horse jockeying, shooting matches, and all elections, are an inlet to this. Shew me a man that frequents the county town, much, and I will shew you one that is in the way to contract a habit of intoxication. The little peltry he may have got to buy himself a hunting shirt, or a little tea, and sugar, for his family, goes into the whiskey bottle.

Now to the application, said Harum Scarum, this will do for the body of the sermon.

As to application, said the Preacher, I will leave that to every man to make for himself. You can all apply the doctrine as well as I can.

“Non omnis possumus omnes.”

Said the Latinist.

Will not that fellow be quiet yet? Said the Sexton, drive him out.

By the bye, he was out already, for the woods was all the chapel that they had: and a rising ground for the pulpit; but the Sexton meant to remove him from the circle; and it was so understood; for they pushed him back to some distance.

The Governor reprimanded Harum Scarum, for his interruption also; for though this could be considered but as a substitute for preaching, until a regular clergyman came forward, yet, in the mean time, the rules of propriety ought to be observed, and interruption or desultory dialogue was improper.

Harum Scarum asked pardon, but wished the preacher would stick a little more to his text, and illustrate the words “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.”

The Preacher said he had done that already, and would not return to it; but, as the usual time had elapsed, he would now finish his discourse.


Remarks

It may be discovered from some things thrown out in the course of this work, that I am apprehensive of giving offence, and the reader may wonder why I should have such apprehensions. It is because I have offended oftentimes, when I had no intention of offending; and when I could not, even afterwards, conceive how the offence could be taken. In early life, admiring the beauty and manners of a young girl, I made a few verses, and presented to her. After having read them, she returned them to me, with visible anger and emotion; and said she did not know what she could have done to have deserved such treatment at my hands.

Being unfortunate in poetry, my next billet doux, some years after, to a young lady, was in prose. But the consequence was the same. It produced resentment. I could no more divine at the time, what it was that displeased, than I could conjure up a spirit from “the deep.” I disdained to enquire into the cause; for in turn I was offended. But reflecting since, on the nature of the human mind, I resolve it into this, that I had attempted wit with my compliments, which was mistaken for ridicule.

There have been occasions when I had in view to try whether I had wit, but meant nothing more than a little pleasantry, and to tickle with a feather, and yet have hurt the feelings of the mind much. When at the academy, I wrote an epigram upon a classmate whom I much respected, and had no conception that it would have been more than the subject of a laugh to himself as well as others, but he ran almost mad, and I ran off. It was a fortnight, before the matter could be set right, and I could return again. A like case happened to me some years since. The publisher of a gazette, applied to me relative to the publication of certain strictures on a public character, to have my opinion as to their being libelous. I told him they might not amount, in strictness to a libel; but came rather under the idea of scurrility. But, to satisfy his correspondents, who might think themselves neglected, if no notice was taken of what they had sent forward, I would throw the substance of them into a light airy dress of playfulness, and fancy, so as not to wound the man, who was my friend, but make it difficult to say, whether the laugh was most at his expence, or that of others. But contrary to my expectation, it hurt much, and occasioned an assault and battery on a journalist who had copied it into his paper.

It cannot be the poignancy of any share of what may be called wit that I possess, if any faculty that I have may be so called; but it must be some peculiarity in the expression, of the effect of which, I am not myself sensible. I have not felt that I am apt to hurt in conversation, or that my words are liable to be misconstrued, and a meaning drawn from them, which was not intended. Yet certainly the same shape of thought, and turn of expression, must shew itself in common parlance. I can account for the difference on no other principle but this, that an appearance of good humour may rebut the suspicion of malevolence, which might otherwise attach itself to the allusion.

When I had written, and even printed off the first volume, which was in the course of last summer, looking over it, at some distance of time, I concluded to burn the impression. But not being near a fire, it escaped; and in the mean time, I began to consider, that it was paying but a bad compliment to the understanding of a democratic people, who are in the habit of freedom of speech, among themselves, and allow great liberties, not to say licentiousness to the press, to suspect them of being so intollerant, and so ready to take offence, when it was not meant. Hence it was that I have taken courage to write on, and thought that if it did give offence, I might as well be hanged for an old sheep as a lamb. The truth is, I had not written myself out; but, many more ideas springing up in my brain, and crouding together in a narrow compass, wanted egress, and demanded to see the light. But some of the more forward of them I have actually knocked on the head, having reason to believe that they might do more harm than good at the present time. I thought a pity of several of them, for they struggled hard to live. But, dearies, said I, you must go. It is better you should die than your father. So they went, poor things, to house themselves with the infantile images that are heard only by their plaints in the entrance of the house of night,

----Vagitus et ingens,
Infantumque animae flentes in limine primo----