Page images

party would at least make him known to that party, be it ever so low and contempt. ible; and this local importance it is which draws off vain minds from those scenes of general usefulness, in which, though they are of more value, they are of less distinction.

About this time he got hold of a fa. mous little book written by the New PHILOSOPHER, whose pestilent do&rines have gone about seeking whom they may destroy; these doctrines found a ready en trance into Mr. Fantom's mind; a mind at once shallow and inquisitive, fpecu. lative and vain, ambitious and dissatisfied. As almost every book was new to him, he fell into the common error of those who begin to read late in life, that of thinking that what he did not know himself, was equally new to others; and he was apt to fancy that he and the author he was reading were the only two people in the world who knew any thing, This book led to the grand discovery; hę B 2


had now found what his heart panted af. ter,--a way to distinguish himself. To start out a full grown philosopher at once, to be wise without education, to dispute without learning, and to make profelytes with. out argument, was a short cut to fame, which well suited his vanity and his igno. rance. He rejoiced that he had been so clever as to examine for himself, pitied his friends who took things upon trust, and was resolved to assert the freedom of his own mind. To a man fond of bold novelties and daring paradoxes, folid argument would be flat, and truth would be dull, merely because it is not new. Mr. Fantom believed, not in proportion to the strength of the evidence, but to the impudence of the assertion. The trampling on holy ground with dirty shoes, the smearing the sanctuary with filth and mire, the calling prophets and apostles by the most scurrilous names was new, and dashing, and dazzling. Mr. Fantom, now being set free from the chains of slavery and superstition,



was resolved to fhow his zeal in the usual way, by trying to free others; but it would have hurt his vanity had he known that he was the convert of a man who had written only for the vulgar, who had invented nothing, no not even one idea of original wickedness; but who had stooped to rake up out of the kennel of infidelity, all the loathsome dregs and offal dirt, which politer unbelievers had thrown away as too gross and offensive for their better bred readers.

Mr. Fantom, who considered that a philosopher must set up with a little sort of stock in trade, now picked up all the common-place notions against Christianity, which have been answered a hundred times over; these he kept by him ready cut and dried, and brought out in all companies with a zeal which would have done honour to a better cause, but which the friends to à better cause are not so apt to difçover. He foon got all the cant of the new school. He prated about narrowness,

B 3 : and

and ignorance, and bigotry, and prejudice, and priestcraft, on the one hand; and on the other, of public good, the love of mankind, and liberality, and candour, and toleration, and above all, benevolence. Benevolence, he said, made up the whole of religion, and all the other parts of it were nothing but cant, and jargon, and hypocrisy. By benevolence he understood a gloomy and indefinite anxiety about the happiness of people with whom he was utterly disconnected, and whom Providence had put it out of his reach either to fervė or injure. And by the happiness this benevolence was so anxious to promote, he meant an exemption from the power of the laws, and an emancipation from the restraints of religion, conscience, and moral obligation.

Finding, however, that he made little impression on his old club at the Cat and Bagpipes, he grew tired of their company. This club consisted of a few sober citizens, who met of an evening for a little harm



lefs recreation after business: their object was, not to reform parliament, but their own shops ; not to correct the abuses of government, but of parish officers ; not to cure the exceffes of administration, but of their own porters and apprentices; to talk over the news of the day without. aspiring to direct the events of it. They read the papers with that anxiety which every honeft man feels in the daily history of his country. But as trade, which they did understand, flourished, they were careful not to reprobate those public measures by which it was protected, and which they did not understand. In fuch turbulent times it was a comfort to each to feel he was a tradesman, and not a statesman; that he was not called to responsibility for a trust for which he found he had no talents, while he was at full liberty to employ the talents he really possessed, in fairly amassing a fortune, of which the laws would be the best guardian, and government the best security. Thus a legitimate B 4


« PreviousContinue »