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was unimpeached; I put as much good sense and divinity into the only sermon I ever wrote, as I was master of; but yet no people saw fit to invite me to a settlement. To be sure, some people were pleased to say I was eccentric, but what that means, I never could find out. After riding, with my saddle-bags, as a candidate, for three years, and preaching my double sermon on this text-Remember Lot's wife, in all the vacant parishes north and south of the Blue Hills, with more diligence than success, I began to conclude that the world was eccentric, as well as I; to please them, would be difficult; and to please them and profit them both, would be impossible; so I gave up divinity for the science of drugs and medicines; in short, I became a physician.
Here, too, my ill-stars followed me; and I was stopped in this career, by my conscience. For the old Esculapian with whom I studied, having charged me to be sure to kill the disease, whether the patient recovered or not, I soon found it was much easier to kill both, than to do justice to either. I began to be afraid to ride by night, (for I had not shaken off all belief in ghosts,) and I certainly know no person more proper to be haunted by all the spirits in a church-yard, than a physician. This fear, together with my conscience, made me hesitate when I came into a sick chamber; and I was so long in determining what was the disease and what the remedy, that my patients lost all confidence in me. In short, I
was an honest man, told the truth, confessed my ignorance, and got out of business; so that I was once more reduced to shrink behind a counter in a grocery store, set up in my native town, with certain red casks standing on one end, with the inscriptions -Wine, New England Rum, Brandy, &c.
For my honor's sake, I must say, I abandoned this business long before the temperance reformation; but not until my neighbors began to crack some very severe jokes at my expense. Some began to conjecture that I never should be good for any thing. One told me the story of a man, who kept an owl in hopes he would at last prove a singing bird, because he kept such a long, solemn thinking beforehand. One wag declared, in reference to my several professions of preacher, doctor, and rum-seller, that I first tried to save the soul, then the body, and, failing in these, I at last tried to destroy soul and body both. Thus have sorrows and disappointments been rained on my defenceless, unfortunate head.
I am now settled, in a small, one-story house, which stands behind six apple-trees, in Bundleborough, my native town. I have a wife and six small children, who are, to confess the truth, in a most poetic condition, and certainly in no danger of losing their morals by feeding on the fat of the land. I cultivate a little farm, which I manage by books, and by reading Mr. Fessenden's paper, as anybody might see by looking at the fields and fences; and being told by
my neighbors, that I am fit for nothing else, I have resolved to turn author. My wife sometimes weeps, when she sees me leaning over my desk, rather than over the plough, and tells me the state of our porktub. But, I assure her, I am resolved to write on; and that a generous public, either out of admiration or pity, and perhaps a mixture of both, will never suffer my speculations to be neglected, or my family to perish.
My poor, pale wife, my ragged children, see!
-Gewgaws fetched from Aaron's old wardrobe, or the flamen's vestry. Milton.
In a republic, it should be the aim of every man to be a good citizen; and in this character, is included a knowledge of his duty, and a disposition to perform it. Respecting the disposition, I have little to say on the present occasion. Only I would remark, that a disposition to our duty, is the best incentive to those painful studies by which its theory is sometimes to be known. A citizen of our republic, can hardly understand his offices without a retrospect of past times. As in looking at a tree, its whole constitution cannot be understood without delving to its roots, so our present condition is the result of causes which operated long before we were born. Would we judge of the beauty of the tree of liberty, or know where to place ourselves under its blessed
shade, we must go back and see the period in which its seed was planted, and mark how its trunk and branches grew.
In the beginning of the 16th century, Europe was overshadowed by thick darkness; and the power of the Roman pontiff seemed consolidated into a prescriptive right. "All the complaints," says father Paul," against the grandeur of the Roman court, seemed to have ceased, and the western Christians were living in obedience to its laws. There was a small sect in the south of France, detested by all their neighbors, who dissented from the established church. But they were a simple and ignorant people, and not likely to spread their opinions. John Huss, too, had left some followers in Germany; but they were regarded as a defeated and broken sect. The difficulties between the popes and secular princes respecting investitures, had been composed." All Europe agreed in bowing with reverence before the papal throne. Whatever antiquity had established, and time handed down, was received with submission. The Bible was unknown; Aristotle reigned in the schools; princes held their thrones, and priests their authority, by the same divine right; a right, which it was considered impiety to question. In politics, in religion, in philosophy, it seemed to be the business of the human mind, not to reason, but to receive implicitly whatever was offered to it. There was a wonderful unity in public opinion, but it was a unity caused by darkness, and secured by chains.