Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

self. Some volumes against" deism fell into my "hands. They were said to be the. substance of sermons preached at Bo\ le's lectures. It happened that they produced on me an effect precisely the reverse of what was intended by the writers; for the aiguments of the deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me mu' h more. forcible than the refutation itself. In a word, I soon became a perfect deist. My arguments perverted some other voung persons; particularly Collin* and Ralph. But in the sequel, when I recollected that they had both used me extrt mely ill, without the smallets remorse; when I considered the behavior of Keith, another freethinker, and mv own conduct towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at . times gave me much uneasiness, I was led to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful. I began to entertain a lesa favorable opinion of my London pamphlet, to which I had prefixed, as a motto, the following lines »f Dryden;

Whatever is, is right; tho' purblind man
Sees but part of the chain, the nearest link,
His eyes not carrying to the equal beam
1 hat poises all above.

and of which the object was to prove, from the attributes of God, bis goodness, wisdom, and power, that there could be no such thing as evil in the world; that vice and virtue did not in reality exist, and were nothing more than vain distinctions. I no longer regarded it as so blamfless a work as I had formerly imagined, and I suspected that some error must have imperceptibly glided into mv argument, by which all the inferences I had drawn from it had been affected, as frequently happens in metaphysical reasonings. In a word, I was at last convinced that truth^ probity and sincerity, in transactions between man and man, were of the utmost importance to the happiness of life ; and I resolved from thai moment, and wrote the resolution in my journal, to practice them as long as I lived.

Revelation indeed, as such, had no influence on my mind j but I was of opinion that, though cvrtairi actions could not be bad merely because revelation prohibited them, or good because it enjoined them, ) et it was probable thai those actions were prohibited because they were bad for us, or enjoined because advantageous in their nature, all things considered. This persuasion, divine providence, some guardian angel, and perhaps a concurrence of favorable circumstances co-operating, preserved me from immorality, or gross ami voluntary injustice, to which my want of religion was calculated to expose me, in the dangerous period of youth, and in the hazardous situations in which I sometimes found myself, among strangers, and at a distance from ;he eye and admonitions ol my father. I may say voluntary, because the errors into which I had fallen, had been in a manner the forced result either of my own tnexperiinee or the dishonesty of others. Thus, before I entered on my new career, I had imbibed solid principles, and a character of probity. I knew their value; and I made si solemn engagement with myself mver to depart Iron* them.

I had not long returned fiom Burlington before .©m printing materials arrived'from London. I Settled my accounts with Keimer, and quitted him with his own consent, before he had any knowledge ©four plan. We found a house to let near the market. We took it; and to render the rent less ©urthensome (it was then twent\ -four pounds a year, but I have since known it let for seventy,) we admitted Thomjks Godfrey, a glazier, with Lis fan> ilv, who eased us of a considerable part of it; and with him we agreed to board.

We had no sooner impacted our letter, and put our press in order, than a person of my acquaintance, George House, brought us a countryman, whom he met in the street enquiring for a printer. Our money was almost exhausted by the number of things we had been obliged to procure. The five shillings we received from this countryman, the first fruit of our earnings, coming so seasonably, gave me more pleasure than any sum I have since gained; and the recollection of the gratitude I felt on this occasion to George House, has rendered me often more disposed, than perhaps I should otherwise have been, to encourage young beginners, in trade.

There are in every country morose beings, who are always prognosticating ruin. There was one of this stamp in Philadelphia. He was a man of fortune, declined in years, had an air of wisdom, and a very grave manner of speaking. His name was Samuel Mickle. I knew him riot; but he stopped one day at my door, and asked me if I was the Joung man who had lately opened a new printinghouse. Upon my answering in the affirmative, he said that he was very sorry for me, as it was an expensive undertaking, and the money that had been laid out upon it would be lost, Philadelphia being a place falling into decay; its inhabieants having all, or nearly all of them, bten obliged to call together their creditors. That he knew, from undoubted fact, the circumstances which might lead us to suppose the contrary, such as new buildings, and the advanced price of rent, to be deceitful appearances, V.hich in reality contributed to hasten the general ruin; and he gave me so long a detail of misfor. tunes, actually existing, or which were soon 10 take

place, that he left me almost in a state of despair. Had I known this man before I entered into trade, I should doubtless never have ventured. He however continued to live in this place of decay, and to declaim in the same style, refusing for many years to buy a house, because all was going to wreck ; and in the end, I had the satisfaction to see him pay five times as much for one as it would cost him had he puri.hased it when he first began his lamentations.

I ought to have related, that, during the autumn of ihe preceding year, I had united the majority of well informed persons of my aequantance into a club, which we called the junto, and the object of which was to improve our understandings. We met every Friday evening. The regulations I drew up, obliged every member to propose, in his turn, one.or more questions upon some point of morality, politics, or philosophy, which were to be discussed by the society; and to read, once in three months, an essay of his own composition, on whatever subject he pleased. Our debates were under the direction of a president, and were to be dictated only by a sincere desire of truth; the pleasure of disputing, and the vanity of triumph, having no share in the business; and in order to prevent undue warmth, every expression which implied obstinate adherence to an opinion, and all direct contrav diction, were prohibited, under small pecuniary penalties.

The first members of our club were—Joseph Breintnal, whose occupation was that of a scrivener. He was a middle-aged man, of a good natural disposition, strongly attached to his friends, a great lover of poetry, reading every thing that came in his way, and writing tolerably well, ingenious .in many little trifles, and of an agreeable conversation.

Thomas Godfrey, a skilful, though self-taught mathematician, and who was afterwards the inventor (>i what now goes by the name of Hadley's dial; but he had little knowltdge out of his own line, and was insupportable in company, always requiring, like the majority of mathematicians that have fallen 'in my way, an unusual precision in every thing that is said, continually contradicting, or making trifling distinctions; a sure way of defeating all the ends of conversation. He very soon left us.

Nicholas Scull, a surveyor, and who became afterwards surveyor-general. He was fond of books, and wrote Verses.'

William Parsons, brought up to the trade of a shoe-maker, but who, havmg a taste for reading, had acquired a profound knowledge of mathematics. He first studied them with a vie'w to astrology, and was afterwards the first to laugh at his folly. He also became a surveyor-general.

William Mawgridge, a'joiner, a very excellent mechanic; and in other respects a man of solid understanding.

Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb. of whom I have already spoken.

Robert Grace, a young man ol fortune ; generous, animated, and witty; fond of epigrams, but more fond of his friends.

Ami lastlv. William Coleman, at that time a merchant's clerk, and nearly of my own age. He had a cooler and clearer head, a better heart,- and mor»" scrupulous morals, than almost any other person I have ever met with. He became a very respectable merchant, and one of our provincial judges. Our friendship subsisted. without interruption, It more than forty years, till the period of his death i and the club continued to exist almost as long.

This was the best school of politii s and philosophy tfc.at thai existed in the province i lor our quca

« ZurückWeiter »