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Fit for a fairy revel; but the book
LIFE IN NATURE.
It cannot surely be that they are dead-
A CHAPTER OF TALK.
S the second winter of our acquaintance drew on,
Pelican and I were compelled to forsake the fields for the fireside. My friendship for him had matured very quickly, but I think my thorough intellectual appreciation of him dates from this period. I believe it is a fact—though I know how egotistic this remark will seem to some people—that our acquaintance was a real help to his intellectual development. Mentally his inferior in many ways, I could give him nothing save appreciative companionship, but this happened to be the very thing he needed. There are some natures which can only develop fully when brought into contact with sympathetic influences; and Pelican's growth had been warped and stunted, though it could not be finally arrested, by the society into which his circumstances had thrown him. The individuals in that society, almost to a man, regarded him with either suspicion or contempt; and all his tendencies to exaggeration in sentiment were unduly aggravated. When he met with any one who would listen to him without either horror or disdain, his best self for the first time got a little space into which to breathe and grow. Very early in our acquaintance he spoke with his usual
impulsiveness of our first meeting as an era in his life. “Before that day," said he, “I had only dreamed of friendship, but then the dream came true. You know the circle in which I lived. There was B-- who could think and talk of nothing but cotton, and the fortune he is going to make out of it. Then there was D— who believed he was called to spend all his time in saving people from hell; and who thought it carnal to read anything but tracts, of which it is speaking charitably to call them nothing worse than worthless. The rest were all of the same order. What had I in common with such men ? I don't want to make a fortune; and I would rather not save people from hell until I can make them fit for somewhere else.”
These sentences are a fair specimen of the kind of talk by which Pelican gained for himself his unsavoury reputation; and if he were sometimes misapprehended and therefore shunned, perhaps the blame cannot be altogether laid on the shoulders of his friends. Having quoted this utterance, I must in mere justice to him also quote a passage from one of his letters in which one of the above startling ideas appears in an expanded, and therefore more intelligible and reasonable form. glad,” he writes, “that you have told me of your conversation with M for I have no wish to be misjudged by any, least of all by men like him. He is like Mr. Disraeli, 'on the side of the angels,' and I would that he could recognise me as in some sort a fellow
“ I am
soldier. M—, you say, proclaims aloud that I do not believe in hell; and argues that disbelief in a punishing God strikes at the root of all morality. This may be so, nay, is so; and, for the very reason that it is so, such disbelief is to me for ever impossible. I do and must believe that there is a hell; may I not say I know there is a hell, because I know of the existence of God and of sin. So long as God and sin co-exist there must be conflict between them; and the sinner who will not separate himself from his sin must sooner or later feel the terror of the wrath of God which is directed against it. In this world the wrong-doer is often happy in his wrong-doing ; he flourishes, as David said, like the green bay-tree; and of this terror he knows little or nothing. But when this universe of sense grows dim to him, and its illusions pass away; when he is brought face to face with eternal realities; there is then no escape from the consciousness of Divine indignation; and the outer darkness, in which he has been dwelling all the while, becomes a darkness which may be felt. To him this is hell—the infinite horror—horrible because painful; but it is really only the result of the conflict of a holy love with the sin which has so enslaved him that it has become a part of himself. If we believe in God—the only possible God-a personal union of Infinite power and Infinite holiness—can we doubt how such a conflict will end? He must reign until every enemy shall be put under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death; the last, because the mightiest. But even he, mighty as he is, shall be destroyed; and for every soul that the Father has made and the Son has redeemed, there shall be life for evermore,— life, not mere existence, but that divine state to which Christ calls us; that salvation which He lived and died that we might receive; that blessedness which God is so anxious to secure for us that He never lets us go, but of His infinite mercy leads us even through hell to His own home, to lie upon His heart, weary with wandering, but satisfied at last. God is love, and God is changeless; the man whom God has once loved He loves for ever. God's love triumphant has made heaven, and it is the same love in conflict with evil that has made hell. But we know—do we not?—that a day must come when conflict will end in victory; when sin will be no more, because God is all in all ; and when death and hell, their terrible and glorious mission at last accomplished, will be together cast into the lake of fire. These things are to me not opinions—they are convictions; they are part of myself. If I were to abandon them, religion would be impossible to me. I must believe in sin, and therefore in hell; but most of all must I believe in a God who is stronger than they."