THE FALLEN STAR, or, THE HISTORY OF A FALSE RELIGION
by E. L. Bulwer
A DISSERTATION ON THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
by Lord Brougham
RELIGION, says Noah Webster in his American Dictionary of the English Language, is derived from "Religo, to bind anew;" and, in this History of a False Religion, our author has shown how easily its votaries were insnared, deceived, and mentally bound in a labyrinth of falsehood and error, by a designing knave, who established a new religion and a new order of priesthood by imposing on their ignorance and credulity.
The history of the origin of one supernatural religion will, with slight alterations, serve to describe them all. Their claim to credence rests on the exhibition of so-called miracles—that is, on a violation of the laws of nature,—for, if religions were founded on the demonstrated truths of science, there would be no mystery, no supernaturalism, no miracles, no skepticism, no false religion. We would have only verified truths and demonstrated facts for the basis of our belief. But this simple foundation does not satisfy the unreasoning multitude. They demand signs, portents, mysteries, wonders and miracles for their faith and the supply of prophets, knaves and impostors has always been found ample to satisfy this abnormal demand of credulity.
Designing men, even at the present day, find little difficulty in establishing new systems of faith and belief. Joseph Smith, who invented the Mormon religion, had more followers and influence in this country at his death, than the Carpenter's Son obtained centuries ago from the unlettered inhabitants of Palestine; and yet Smith achieved his success among educated people in this so-called enlightened age, while Jesus taught in an age of semi-barbarism and faith, when both Jews and Pagans asserted and believed that beasts, birds, reptiles and even fishes understood human language, were often gifted with human speech, and sometimes seemed to possess even more than ordinary human intelligence.
They taught that the serpent, using the language of sophistry, beguiled Eve in Eden, who in turn corrupted Adam, her first and only husband. At the baptism of Jesus by John in the river Jordan, the voice of a dove resounded in the heavens, saying, quite audibly and distinctly, "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." Balaam disputed with his patient beast of burden, on their celebrated journey in the land of Moab, and the ass proved wiser in the argument that ensued than the inspired prophet who bestrode him, The great fish Oannes left his native element and taught philosophy to the Chaldeans on dry land. One reputable woman, of Jewish lineage,—the mother of an interesting family—was changed to a pillar of salt in Sodom while another female of great notoriety known to fame as the celebrated "Witch of Endor," raised Samuel from his grave in Ramah. Saint Peter found a shilling in the mouth of a fish which he caught in the Sea of Galilee, and this lucky incident enabled the impecunious apostle to pay the "tribute money" in Capernaum. Another famous Israelite,—so it is said,—broke the record of balloon ascensions in Judea, and ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire.
In an age of ignorance wonders abound, prodigies occur, and miracles become common, The untaught masses are easily deceived, and their unreasoning credulity enables them to proudly boast of their unquestioning faith. When their feelings are excited and their passions aroused by professional evangelists, they even profess to believe that which they cannot comprehend; and, in the satirical language of Bulwer, they endeavor to "assist their ignorance by the conjectures of their superstition."
Among the multitudes of diverse and opposing religions which afflict mankind, it is self-evident that but one religion may justly claim the inspiration of truth, and it is equally evident to all reasoning minds that that religion is the religion of kindness and humanity,—the religion of noble thoughts and generous deeds,—which removes the enmities of race and creed, and "makes the whole world kin!" And which, in its observance is blessed with sympathy, friendship, happiness and love.
This religion needs no creed, no profession of faith, no incense, no prayer, no penance, no sacrifice. Its whole duty consists in comforting the afflicted, assisting the unfortunate, protecting the helpless, and in honestly fulfilling our duties to our fellow mortals. In the language of Confucius, the ancient Chinese Sage, it is simply "to behave to others as I would require others to behave to me."
"Do unto others as you would they should do unto you," says Jesus; and in the Epistle of James, we are told that "Pure Religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
The same benign and generous conduct is commended in even grander and nobler language in the lectures to the French Masonic Lodges: "Love one another, teach one another, help one another. That is all our doctrine, all our science, all our law."
It is believed that the learned dissertation of Lord Brougham on the Origin of Evil, which is annexed to this work, will need no commendation to ensure its careful perusal.
THE FALLEN STAR, or, THE HISTORY OF A FALSE RELIGION
by E. L. Bulwer
AN ALLEGORY OF THE STARS.
And the Stars sat, each on his ruby throne, and watched with sleepless eyes upon the world. It was the night ushering in the new year, a night on which every star receives from the archangel that then visits the universal galaxy, its peculiar charge.
The destinies of men and empires are then portioned forth for the coming year, and, unconsciously to ourselves, our fates become minioned to the stars.
A hushed and solemn night is that in which the dark gates of time open to receive the ghost of the dead year, and the young and radiant stranger rushes forth from the clouded chasms of eternity. On that night, it is said that there are given to the spirits that we see not, a privilege and a power; the dead are troubled in their forgotten graves, and men feast and laugh, while demon and angel are contending for their doom.
It was night in heaven; all was unutterably silent, the music of the spheres had paused, and not a sound came from the angels of the stars; and they who sat upon those shining thrones were three thousand and ten, each resembling each.
Eternal youth clothed their radiant limbs with celestial beauty, and on their faces was written the dread of calm, that fearful stillness which feels not, sympathizes not with the dooms over which it broods.
War, tempest, pestilence, the rise of empires, and their fall, they ordain, they, compass, unexultant and uncompassionate. The fell and thrilling crimes that stalk abroad when the world sleeps—the parricide with his stealthy step, and horrent brow, and lifted knife; the unwifed mother that glides out and looks behind, and behind, and shudders, and casts her babe upon the river, and hears the wail, and pities not—the splash, and does not tremble!
These the starred kings behold—to these they lead the unconscious step; but the guilt blanches not their lustre, neither doth remorse wither their unwrinkled youth.
Each star wore a kingly diadem; round the loins of each was a graven belt, graven with many and mighty signs; and the foot of each was on a burning ball, and the right arm dropped over the knee as they bent down from their thrones; they moved not a limb or feature, save the finger of the right hand, which ever and anon moved slowly, pointing, and regulated the fates of men as the hand of the dial speaks the career of time.
One only of the three thousand and ten wore not the same aspect as his crowned brethren; a star, smaller than the rest, and less luminous. The countenance of this star was not impressed with the awful calmness of the others; but there were sullenness and discontent upon his mighty brow.
And this star said to himself—"Behold, I am created less glorious than my fellows, and the archangel apportions not to me the same lordly destinies. Not for me are the dooms of kings and bards, the rulers of empires, or, yet nobler, the swayers and harmonists of souls. Sluggish are the spirits and base the lot of the men I am ordained to lead through a dull life to a fameless grave. And wherefore?—Is it mine own fault, or is it the fault which is not mine, that I was woven of beams less glorious than my brethren? Lo! when the archangel comes, I will bow not my crowned head to his decrees. I will speak, as the ancestral Lucifer before me: he rebelled because of his glory, I because of my obscurity; he from the ambition of pride, and I from its discontent."
And while the star was thus communing with himself, the upward heavens were parted as by a long river of light, and adown that stream swiftly, and without sound, sped the archangel visitor of the stars; his vast limbs floated in the liquid lustre, and his outspread wings, each plume the glory of a sun, bore him noiselessly along; but thick clouds veiled his lustre from the eyes of mortals, and while above all was bathed in the serenity of his splendor, tempest and storm broke below over the children of the earth:
"He bowed the heavens and came down, and darkness was under his feet."
And the stillness on the faces of the stars became yet more still, and the awfulness was humbled into awe. Right above their thrones paused the course of the archangel; and his wings stretched from east to west, overshadowing with the shadow of light the immensity of space. Then forth in the shining stillness, rolled the dread music of his voice: and, fulfilling the heraldry of god, to each star he appointed the duty and the charge, and each star bowed his head yet lower as he heard the fiat, while his throne rocked and trembled at the majesty of the word. But at last, when each of the brighter stars had, in succession, received the mandate, and the viceroyalty over the nations of the earth, the purple and diadems of kings—the archangel addressed the lesser star as he sat apart from his fellows.
"Behold," said the archangel, "the rude tribes of the north, the fishermen of the river that flows beneath, and the hunters of the forests, that darken the mountain-tops with verdure! these be thy charge, and their destinies thy care. Nor deem thou, O star of the sullen beams, that thy duties are less glorious than the duties of thy brethren; for the peasant is not less to thy master and mine than the monarch; nor doth the doom of empires rest more upon the sovereign than on the herd. The passions and the heart are the dominion of the stars—a mighty realm; nor less mighty beneath the hide that garbs the shepherd, than the jewelled robes of eastern kings."
Then the star lifted his pale front from his breast, and answered the archangel:
"Lo!" he said, "ages have past, and each year thou hast appointed me to the same ignoble charge. Release me, I pray thee, from the duties that I scorn; or, if thou wilt that the lowlier race of men be my charge, give unto me the charge not of many, but of one, and suffer me to breathe into him the desire that spurns the valleys of life, and ascends its steeps. If the humble are given to me, let there be amongst them one whom I may lead on the mission that shall abase the proud; for, behold, O Appointer of the Stars, as I have sat for uncounted years upon my solitary throne, brooding over the things beneath, my spirit hath gathered wisdom from the changes that shift below. Looking upon the tribes of earth, I have seen how the multitude are swayed, and tracked the steps that lead weakness into power; and fain would I be the ruler of one who, if abased, shall aspire to rule."
As a sudden cloud over the face of noon was the change on the brow of the archangel.
"Proud and melancholy star," said the herald, "thy wish would war with the courses of the invisible destiny, that, throned far above, sways and harmonizes all; the source from which the lesser rivers of fate are eternally gushing through the heart of the universe of things. Thinkest thou that thy wisdom, of itself, can lead the peasant to become a king?"
And the crowned star gazed undauntedly on the face of the archangel, and answered:
"Yea!—grant me but one trial!"
Ere the archangel could reply, the farthest centre of the heaven was rent as by a thunderbolt; and the divine herald covered his face with his hands, and a voice low and sweet, and mild with the consciousness of unquestionable power, spoke forth to the repining star:
"The time has arrived when thou mayest have thy wish. Below thee, upon yon solitary plain, sits a mortal, gloomy as thyself, who, born under thy influence, may be moulded to thy will."
The voice ceased, as the voice of a dream. Silence was over the seas of space, and the archangel, once more borne aloft, slowly soared away into the farther heaven, to promulgate the divine bidding to the stars of far-distant worlds.
But the soul of the discontented star exulted within itself; and it said, "I will call forth a king from the valley of the herdsmen, that shall trample on the kings subject to my fellows, and render the charge of the contemned star more glorious than the minions of its favored brethren; thus shall I revenge neglect—thus shall I prove my claim hereafter to the heritage of the great of earth!"
At that time, though the world had rolled on for ages, and the pilgrimage of man had passed through various states of existence, which our dim traditionary knowledge has not preserved, yet the condition of our race in the northern hemisphere was then what we, in our imperfect lore, have conceived to be among the earliest.
FORMING A NEW RELIGION.
By a rude and vast pile of stones, the masonry of arts forgotten, a lonely man sat at midnight, gazing upon the heavens. A storm had just passed from the earth—the clouds had rolled away, and the high stars looked down upon the rapid waters of the Rhine; and no sound save the roar of the waves and the dripping of the rain from the mighty trees, was heard around the ruined pile: the white sheep lay scattered on the plain, and slumber with them. He sat watching over the herd, lest the foes of a neighboring tribe seized them unawares, and thus he communed with himself:
"The king sits upon his throne, and is honored by a warrior race, and the warrior exults in the trophies he has won; the step of the huntsman is bold upon the mountain-top, and his name is sung at night round the pine-fires, by the lips of the bard; and the bard himself hath honor in the hail. But I, who belong not to the race of kings, and whose limbs can bound not to the rapture of war, nor scale the eyries of the eagle and the haunts of the swift stag; whose hand cannot string the harp, and whose voice is harsh in the song; I have neither honor nor command, and men bow not the head as I pass along; yet do I feel within me the consciousness of a great power that should rule my species—not obey. My eye pierces the secret hearts of men—I see their thoughts ere their lips proclaim them; and I scorn, while I see, the weakness and the vices which I never shared. I laugh at the madness of the warrior—I mock within my soul at the tyranny of kings. Surely there is something in man's nature more fitted to command—more worthy of renoun, than the sinews of the arm, or the swiftness of the feet, or the accident of birth!"
As Morven, the son of Osslah, thus mused within himself, still looking at the heavens, the solitary man beheld a star suddenly shooting from its place, and speeding through the silent air, till it as suddenly paused right over the midnight river, and facing the inmate of the pile of stones.
As he gazed upon the star strange thoughts grew slowly over him. He drank, as it were, from its solemn aspect, the spirit of a great design. A dark cloud rapidly passing over the earth, snatched the star from his sight; but left to his awakened mind the thoughts and the dim scheme that had come to him as he gazed.
When the sun arose one of his brethren relieved him of his charge over the herd, and he went away, but not to his father's home. Musingly he plunged into the dark and leafless recesses of the winter forest; and shaped out of his wild thoughts, more palpably and clearly, the outline of his daring hope.
While thus absorbed, he heard a great noise in the forest, and, fearful lest the hostile tribe of the Alrich might pass that way, he ascended one of the loftiest pine-trees, to whose perpetual verdure the winter had not denied the shelter he sought, and, concealed by its branches, he looked anxiously forth in the direction whence the noise had proceed.
And IT came—it came with a tramp and a crash, and a crushing tread upon the crunched boughs and matted leaves that strewed the soil—it came—it came, the monster that the world now holds no more—the mighty mammoth of the North!
Slowly it moved in its huge strength along, and its burning eyes glittered through the gloomy shade: its jaws, falling apart, showed the grinders with which it snapped asunder the young oaks of the forest; and the vast tusks, which, curved downward to the midst of its massive limbs, glistened white and ghastly, curdling the blood of one destined hereafter to be the dreaded ruler of the men of that distant age.
The livid eyes of the monster fastened on the form of the herdsman, even amidst the thick darkness of the pine. It paused—it glared upon him—its jaws opened, and a low deep sound, as of gathering thunder, seemed to the son of Osslah as the knell of a dreadful grave. But after glaring on him for some moments, it again, and calmly, pursued its terrible way, crashing the boughs as it marched along, till the last sound of its heavy tread died away upon his ear.
Ere yet, however, before Morven had summoned the courage to descend the tree, he saw the shining of arms through the bare branches of the wood, and presently a small hand of the hostile Alrich came into sight. He was perfectly hidden from them; and, listening as they passed him, he heard one say to another:
"The night covers all things; why attack them by day?"
And he who seemed the chief of the band, answered "Right. To-night, when they sleep in their city, we will upon them. Lo! they will be drenched in wine, and fall like sheep into our hands."
"But where, O chief," said a third of the band, "shall our men hide during the day? for there are many hunters among the youth of the Oestrich tribe, and they might see us in the forest unawares, and arm their race against our coming."
"I have prepared for that," answered the chief. "Is not the dark cavern of Oderlin at hand? Will it not shelter us from the eyes of the victims?"
Then the men laughed, and shouting, they went their way adown the forest.
When they were gone Morven cautiously descended, and, striking into a broad path, hastened to a vale that lay between the forest and the river in which was the city where the chief of his country dwelt.
As he passed by the warlike men, giants in that day, who thronged the streets (if streets they might be called), their half garments parting from their huge limbs, the quiver at their backs, and the hunting spears in their hands, they laughed and shouted out, and, pointing to him, cried:
"Morven, the woman! Morven, the cripple! what dost thou among men?"
For the son of Osslah was small in stature and of slender strength, and his step had halted from his birth; but he passed through the warriors unheedingly.
At the outskirts of the city he came upon a tail pile, in which some old men dwelt by themselves, and counseled the king when times of danger, or when the failure of the season, the famine, or the drought, perplexed the ruler, and clouded the savage fronts of his warrior tribe.
They gave the counsels of experience, and when experience failed, they drew, in their believing ignorance, assurances and omens from the winds of heaven, the changes of the moon, and the flights of the wandering birds. Filled (by the voices of the elements, and the variety of mysteries which ever shift along the face of things, unsolved by the wonder which pauses not, the fear which believes, and that eternal reasoning of all experience, which assigns causes to effects) with the notion of superior powers, they assisted their ignorance by the conjectures of their superstition. But as yet they knew no craft and practiced no voluntary delusion; they trembled too much at the mysteries, which had created their faith, to seek to belie them. They counselled as they believed, and the bold dream had never dared to cross men thus worn and grey with age, of governing their warriors and their kings by the wisdom of deceit.
The son of Osslah entered the vast pile with a fearless step, and approached the place at the upper end of the hall, where the old men sat in conclave.
"How, base-torn and craven limbed!" cried the eldest, who had been a noted warrior in his day; "darest thou enter unsummoned amidst the secret councils of the wise men? Knowest thou not, scatterling! that the penalty is death?"
"Slay me, if thou wilt," answered Morven "but hear!
"As I sat last night in the ruined palace of our ancient kings, tending, as my father bade me, the sheep that grazed around, lest the fierce tribe of Alrich should descend unseen from the mountains upon the herd, a storm came darkly on; and when the storm, had ceased and I looked above on the sky, I saw a star descend from its height towards me, and a voice from the star said, 'Son of Osslah, leave thy herd and seek the council of the wise men, and say unto them, that they take thee as one of their number, or that sudden will be the destruction of them, and theirs.'
"But I had courage to answer the voice, and I said, 'Mock not the poor son of the herdsman. Behold they will kill me if I utter so rash a word, for I am poor and valueless in the eyes of the tribe of Oestrich, and the great in deeds and the grey of hair alone sit in the council of the wise men.'
"Then the voice said, 'Do my bidding, and I will give thee a token that thou comest from the powers that sway the seasons and sail upon the eagles of the winds. Say unto the wise men that this very night if they refuse to receive thee of their band, evil shall fall upon them, and the morrow shall dawn in blood.'
"Then the voice ceased, and a cloud passed over the star; and I communed with myself, and came, O dread fathers, mournfully unto you. For I feared that ye would smite me because of my bold tongue, and that ye would, sentence me to the death, in that I asked what may scarce be given even to the sons of kings."
Then the grim elders looked one at the other and marvelled much, nor knew they what answer they should make to the herdsman's son.
At length one of the wise men said, "Surely there must be truth in the son of Osslah, for he would not dare to falsify the great lights of heaven. If he had given unto men the words of the star, verily we might doubt the truth. But who would brave the vengeance of the gods of night?"
Then the elders shook their heads approvingly; but one answered and said:
"Shall we take the herdsman's son as our equal? No!"
The name of the man who thus answered was Darvan, and his words were pleasing to the elders.
But Morven spoke out:
"Of a truth, O councilors of kings! I look not to be an equal with yourselves. Enough if I tend the gates of your palace, and serve you as the son of Osslah may serve;" and he bowed his head humbly as he spoke.
Then said the chief of the elders, for he was wiser than the others, "But how wilt thou deliver us from the evil that is to come? Doubtless the star hath informed thee of the service thou canst render to us if we take thee into our palace, as well as the ill that will fall on us if we refuse."
Morven answered meekly: "Surely, if thou acceptest thy servant, the star will teach him that which may requite thee; but as yet he knows only what he has uttered."
Then the sages bade him withdraw, and they communed with themselves and they differed much; but though fierce men and bold at the war cry of a human foe, they shuddered at the prophecy of a star. So they resolved to take the son of Osslah, and suffer him to keep the gate of the council-hall.
He heard their decree and towed his head, and went to the gate, and sat down by it in silence.
And the sun went down in the west, and the first stats of the twilight began to glimmer, when Morven started front his seat, and a trembling appeared to seize his limbs. His lips foamed; an agony and a fear possessed him; he writhed as a man whom the spear of a foeman has pierced with a mortal wound, and suddenly fell upon his face on the stony earth.
The elders approached him; wondering, they lifted him up. He slowly recovered as from a swoon; his eyes rolled wildly.
"Heard ye not the voice of the star?" he said.
And the chief of the elders answered, "Nay, we heard no sound."
Then Morven sighed heavily.
"To me only the word was given. Summon instantly, O councilors of the king! summon the armed men, and all the youth of the tribe, and let them take the sword and the spear, and follow thy servant. For lo! the star hath announced to him that the foe shall fall into our hands as the wild beast of the forests."
The son of Osslah spoke with the voice of command, and the elders were amazed.
"Why, pause ye?" he cried. "Do the gods of the night lie? On my head rest the peril if I deceive ye."
Then the elders communed together; and they went forth and summoned the men of arms, and all the young of the tribe; and each man took the sword and the spear, and Morven also. And the son of Osslah walked first, still looking up at the star; and he motioned them to be silent, and move with a stealthy step.
So they went through the thickest of the forest, till they came to the mouth of a great cave, overgrown with aged and matted trees, and it was called the cave of Oderlin; and he bade the leaders place the armed men on either side the cave, to the right and to the left, among the hushes.
So they watched silently till the night deepened, when they heard a noise in the cave and the sound of feet, and forth came an armed man; and the spear of Morven pierced him, and he fell dead at the mouth of the cave. Another and another, and both fell! Then loud and long was heard the warcry of Alrich, and forth poured, as a stream over a narrow bed, the river of armed men.
And the Sons of Oestrich fell upon them, and the foe were sorely perplexed and terrified by the suddenness of the battle and the darkness of the night; and there was a great slaughter.
And when the morning came, the children of Oestrich counted the slain, and found the leader of Alrich and the chief men of the tribe amongst them, and great was the joy thereof.
So they went back in triumph to the city, and they carded the brave son of Osslah on their shoulders, and shouted forth, "Glory to the servant of the star."
And Morven dwelt in the council of the wise men.
Now the king of the tribe had one daughter, and she was stately amongst the women of the tribe, and fair to look upon. And Morven gazed upon her with the eyes of love, but he did not dare to speak.
Now the son of Osslah laughed secretly at the foolishness of men; he loved them not, for they had mocked him; he honored them not, for he had blinded the wisest of their elders.
He shunned their feasts and merriment and lived apart and solitary.
The austerity of his life increased the mysterious homage which his commune with the stars had won him, and the boldest of the warriors bowed his head to the favorite of the gods.
One day he was wandering by the side of the river, and he saw a large bird of prey rise from the earth, and give chase to a hawk that had not yet gained the full strength of its wings. From his youth the solitary Morven had loved to watch, in the great forests and by the banks of the mighty stream, the habits of the things which nature had submitted to man; and looking now on the birds, he said to himself, "Thus is it ever; by cunning or by strength each thing wishes to master its kind."
While thus, moralizing, the larger bird had stricken down the hawk, and it fell terrified and panting at his feet.
Morven took the hawk in his hands, and the vulture shrieked above him, wheeling nearer and nearer to its protected prey; but Morven scared away the vulture, and placing the hawk in his bosom, he carried it home, and tended it carefully, and fed it from his hand until it had regained its strength; and the hawk knew him, and followed him as a dog.
And Morven said, smiling to himself, "Behold, the credulous fools around me put faith in the flight and motions of birds. I will teach this poor hawk to minister to my ends."
So he tamed the bird, and tutored it according to its nature; but he concealed it carefully from others, and cherished it in secret.
The king of the country was old and like to die, and the eyes of the tribe were turned to his two sons, nor knew they which was the worthier to reign.
And Morven passing through the forest one evening, saw the younger of the two, who was a great hunter, sitting mournfully under an oak, and looking with musing eyes upon the ground.
"Wherefore musest thou, O swift footed Siror?" said the son of Osslah; "and wherefore art thou sad?"
"Thou canst not assist me," answered the prince, sternly; "take thy way."
"Nay," answered Morven, "thou knowest not what thou sayest; am I not the favorite of the stars?"
"Away, I am no graybeard whom the approach of death makes doting: talk not to inc of the stars; I know only the things that my eye sees and my ear drinks in."
"Hush," said Morven, solemnly, and covering his face; "hush! lest the heavens avenge thy rashness. But, behold, the stars have given unto me to pierce the secret hearts of others; and I can tell thee the thoughts of thine."
"Speak out, base-born!"
"Thou art the younger of two, and thy name is less known in war than the name of thy brother; yet wouldst thou desire to be set over his head, and to sit at the high seat of thy father?"
The young man turned pale.
"Thou hast truth in thy lips," said he, with a faltering voice.
"Not from me, but from the stars, descends the truth."
"Can the stars grant my wish?"
"They can; let us meet to-morrow." Thus saying, Morven passed into the forest.
The next day, at noon, they met again.
"I have consulted the gods of night, and they have given me the power that I prayed for, but on one condition."
"That thou sacrifice thy sister on their altars thou must build up a heap of stones, and take thy sister into the wood, and lay her on the pile, and plunge thy sword into her heart; so only shalt then reign."
The prince shuddered, and started to his feet, and shook his spear at the pale front of Morven.
"Tremble," said the son of Osslah, with a loud voice. "Hark to the gods, who threaten thee with death, that thou hast dared to lift thine arm against their servant!"
As he spoke, the thunder rolled above; for one of the frequent storms of the early summer was about to break.
The spear dropped from the prince's hand; he sat down and cast his eyes on the ground.
"Wilt thou do the bidding of the stars, and reign?" said Morven.
"I will!" cried Siror, with a desperate voice.
"This evening, then, when the sun sets, thou wilt lead her hither, alone; I may not attend thee. Now, let us pile the stones."
Silently the huntsman bent his vast strength to the fragments of rock that Morven pointed to him, and they built the altar, and went their way.
And beautiful is the dying of the great sum when the last song of the birds fades into the lap of silence; when the islands of the cloud are bathed in light, and the first star springs up over the grave of day.
"Whither leadest thou my steps, my brother?" said Gina; "and why doth thy lip quiver? and why dost thou tarn away thy face?"
"Is not the forest beautiful; doth it not tempt us forth, my sister?"
"And wherefore are those heaps of stone piled together?"
"Let others answer; I piled them not."
"Thou tremblest brother: we will return."
"Not so; by those stones is a bird that my shaft pierced to-day; a bird of beautiful plumage that I slew for thee."
"We are by the pile: where hast thou laid the bird?"
"Here!" cried Siror; and he seized the maiden in his arms, and, casting her on the rude altar, he drew forth his sword to smite her to the heart.
Right over the stones rose a giant oak, the growth of immemorial ages; and from the oak, or from the heavens; broke forth a loud and solemn voice:
"Strike not, son of kings! the stars forbear their own: the maiden thou shalt not slay; yet shalt thou reign over the race of Oestrich; and thou shall give Orna as a bride to the favorite of the stars. Arise, and go thy way!"
The voice ceased: the terror of Orna had overpowered for a time the springs of life; and Siror bore her home through the wood in his strong arms.
"Alas!" said Morven, when, at the next day, he again met the aspiring prince; "alas! the stars have ordained me a lot which my heart desires not; for I, lonely of life, and crippled of shape, am insensible to the fires of love; and ever, as thou and thy tribe know, I have shunned the eyes of women, for the maidens laughed at my halting step and my sullen features; and so in my youth I learned betimes to banish all thoughts of love. But since they told me (as they declared to thee), that only through that marriage, thou, O beloved prince! canst obtain thy fatter's plumed crown, I yield me to their will."
"But," said the prince, "not until I am king can I give thee my sister in marriage; for thou knowest that my sire would smite me to the dust, if I asked him to give the flower of our race to the son of the herdsman Osslah."
"Thou speakest the words of truth. Go home and fear not: but, when thou art king, the sacrifice must be made, and Orna mine. Alas! how can I dare to lift my eyes to her! But so ordain the dread kings of the night!—Who shall gainsay their word?"
"The day that sees me king, sees Orna thine," answered the prince.
Morven walked forth, as was his wont, alone; and he said to himself, "the king is old, yet may he live long between me and mine hope!" and he began to cast in his mind how he might shorten the time.
Thus absorbed, he wandered on so unheedingly, that night advanced, and he had lost his path among the thick woods, and knew not how to regain his home; so he lay down quietly beneath a tree, and rested till day dawned.
Then hunger came upon him and he searched among the bushes for such simple roots as those with which, for he was ever careless of food, he was used to appease the cravings of nature.
He found, among other more familiar herbs and roots, a red berry of a sweetish taste, which he had never observed before. He ate of it sparingly, and had not proceeded far in the wood before he found his eyes swim, and a deadly sickness come over him. For several hours he lay convulsed on the ground expecting death; but the gaunt spareness of his frame, and his unvarying abstinence, prevailed over the poison, and he recovered slowly, and after great anguish: but he went with feeble steps back to the spot where the berries grew, and, plucking several, hid them in his bosom, and by nightfall regained the city.
The next day he went forth among his father's herds, and seizing a lamb, forced some of the berries into its stomach, and the lamb, escaping, ran away, and fell down dead. Then Morven took some more of the berries and boiled them down, and mixed the juice with wine, and he gave the wine in secret to one of his father's servants, and the servant died.
Then Morven sought the king, and coming into his presence alone, he said unto him, "How fares my lord?"
The king sat on a couch, made of the skins of wolves, and his eye was glassy and dim; but vast were his aged limbs and huge was his stature, and he had been taller by a head than the children of men, and none living could bend the bow he had bent in youth. Grey, gaunt and worn, as some mighty bones that are dug at times from the bosom of the earth—a relic of the strength of old.
And the king said, faintly, and with a ghastly laugh:
"The men of my years fare ill. What avails my strength? Better had I been born a cripple like thee, so should I have had nothing to lament in growing old."
The red flash passed over Morven's brow; but he bent humbly—
"O king, what if I could give thee back thy youth? What if I could restore to thee the vigor which distinguished thee above the sons of men, when the warriors of Alrich fell like grass before thy sword?"
Then the king uplifted his dull eyes, and he said:
"What meanest thou, son of Osslah? Surely I hear much of thy great wisdom, and how thou speakest nightly with the stars. Can the gods of the night give unto thee the secret to make the old young?"
"Tempt them not by doubt," said Morven, reverently. "All things are possible to the rulers of the dark hour; and, lo! the star that loves thy servant spake to him at the dead of night, and said, 'Arise, and go unto the king; and tell him that the stars honor the tribe of Oestrich, and remember how the king bent his bow against the Sons of Alrich; wherefore, look thou under the stone that lies to the right of thy dwelling—even beside the pine-tree, and thou shalt see a vessel of clay, and in the vessel thou wilt find a sweet liquid, that shall make the king thy master forget his age forever.'
"Therefore, my lord, when the morning rose I went forth, and looked under the stone, and behold the vessel of clay; and I have brought it hither to my lord, the king."
"Quick—slave—quick! that I may drink and regain my youth!"
"Nay, listen, O king! farther said the star to me:
"'It is only at night, when the stars have power, that this their gift will avail; wherefore, the king must wait till the hush of the midnight, when the moon is high, and then may he mingle the liquid with his wine.
"'And he must reveal to none that he hath received the gift from the hand of the servant of the stars. For THEY do their work in secret, and when men sleep; therefore they love not the babble of mouths, and he who reveals their benefits shall surely die.'"
"Fear not," said the king, grasping the vessel; "none shall know: and, behold, I will rise on the morrow; and my two sons—wrangling for my crown—verily, I shall be younger than they!"
Then the king laughed loud; and he scarcely thanked the servant of the stars, neither did he promise him reward: for the kings in those days had little thought—save for themselves.
And Morven said to him, "Shall I not attend my lord? for without me, perchance, the drug might fail of its effect."
"Aye," said the king, "rest here."
"Nay," replied Morven; "thy servants will marvel and talk much, if they see the son of Osslah sojourning in thy palace. So would the displeasure of the gods of night perchance be incurred. Suffer that the lesser door of the palace be unbarred, so that at the night hour, when the moon is midway in the heavens, I may steal unseen into thy chamber, and mix the liquid with thy wine."
"So be it," said the king. "Thou art wise though thy limbs are crooked and curt; and the stars might have chosen a taller man."
Then the king laughed again; and Morven laughed too, but there was danger in the mirth of the son of Osslah.
The night had began to wane, and the inhabitants of Oestrich were buried in deep sleep, when, hark! a sharp voice was heard crying out in the streets, "Woe, woe! Awake ye sons of Oestrich—woe!"
Then forth, wild—haggard—alarmed—spear in hand, rushed the giant sons of the rugged tribe, and they saw a man on a height in the middle of the city, shrieking, "Woe!" and it was Morven, the son of Osslah!
And he said unto them, as they gathered round him, "Men and warriors, tremble as ye hear.
"The star of the west hath spoken to me and thus saith the star:
"'Evil shall fall upon the kingly house of Oestrich—yea, ere the morning dawns; wherefore, go thou mourning into the streets, and wake the inhabitants to woe!'
"So I rose and did the bidding of the star."
And while Morven was yet speaking, a servant of the king's house ran up to the crowd, crying loudly:
"The king is dead!"
So they went into the palace and found the king stark upon his couch, and his huge limbs all cramped and crippled by the pangs of death, and his hands clenched as if in menace of a foe—the foe of all living flesh!
Then fear came on the gazers, and they looked on Morven with a deeper awe than the boldest warrior would have called forth: and they bore him back to the council-hall of the wise men, wailing and clashing their arms in woe, and shouting, ever and anon:
"Honor to Morven, the prophet!"
And that was the first time the word PROPHET was ever used in those countries.
At noon, on the third day from the king's death, Siror sought Morven, and he said:
"Lo, my father is no more, and the people meet this evening at sunset to elect his successor, and the warriors and the young men will surely choose my brother, for he is more known in war. Fail me not, therefore."
"Peace, boy!" said Morven, sternly; "nor dare to question the truth of the gods of night."
For Morven now began to presume on his power among the people, and to speak as rulers speak, even to the sons of kings.
And the voice silenced the fiery Siror, nor dared he to reply.
"Behold," said Morven, taking up a chaplet of colored plumes, "wear this on thy head, and put on a brave face—for the people like a hopeful spirit—and go down with thy brother to the place where the new king is to be chosen, and leave the rest to the stars.
"But, above all things, forget not that chaplet; it has been blessed by the gods of night."
The prince took the chaplet and returned home.
It was evening and the warriors and chiefs of the tribe were assembled in the place where the new king was to be elected.
And the voices of the many favored Prince Voltoch, the brother of Siror, for he had slain twelve foeman with his spear; and verily, in those days, that was a great virtue in a king.
Suddenly there was a shout in the streets, and the people cried out:
"Way for Morven, the prophet, the prophet!"
For the people held the son of Osslah in even greater respect than did the chiefs.
Now, since he had become of note, Morven had assumed a majesty of air which the son of the herdsman knew not in his earlier days; and albeit his stature was short, and his limbs halted, yet his countenance was grave and high.
He only of the tribe wore a garment that swept the ground, and his head was bare, and his long black hair descended to his girdle, and rarely was change or human passion seen in his calm aspect.
He feasted not, nor drank wine, nor was his presence frequent in the streets.
He laughed not, neither did he smile, save when alone in the forest—and then he laughed at the follies of his tribe.
So he walked slowly through the crowd, neither turning to the left nor to the right, as the crowd gave way; and he supported his steps with a staff of the knotted pine.
And when he came to the place where the chiefs were met, and the two princes stood in the centre, he bade the people around him proclaim silence.
Then mounting on a huge fragment of rock, he thus spake to the multitude:
"Princes, wantons and bards! ye, O council of the wise men! and ye, O hunters of the forests, and snarers of the fishes of the streams! harken to Morven, the son of Osslah.
"Ye know that I am lowly of race, and weak of limb; but did I not give into your hands the tribe of Alrich, and did ye not slay them in the dead of night with a great slaughter?
"Surely, ye must know that this of himself did not the herdsman's son; surely he was but the agent of the bright gods that love the children of Oestrich.
"Three nights since, when slumber was on the earth, was not my voice heard in the streets?
"Did I not proclaim woe to the kingly house of Oestrich? and verily the dark arm had fallen on the bosom of the mighty, that is no more.
"Could I have dreamed this thing merely in a dream, or was I not as the voice of the bright gods that watch over the tribes of Oestrich?
"Wherefore, O men and chiefs! scorn not the son of Osslah, but listen to his words; for are they not the wisdom of the stars?
"Behold, last night, I sat alone in the valley, and the trees were hushed around, and not a breath stirred; and I looked upon the star that counsels the son of Osslah; and I said:
"'Dread conqueror of the cloud! thou that bathest thy beauty in the streams and piercest the pine-boughs with thy presence; behold thy servant grieved because the mighty one hath passed away, and many foes surround the houses of my brethren; and it is well that they should have a king valiant and prosperous in war, the cherished of the stars.
"'Wherefore, O star! as thou gavest into our hands the warriors of Alrich, and didst warn us of the fall of the oak of our tribe, wherefore, I pray thee, give unto the people a token that they may choose that king whom the gods of the night prefer!'
"Then a low voice sweeter than the music of the bard, stole along the silence.
"'Thy love for thy race is grateful to the stars of night: go then, son of Osslah, and seek the meeting of the chiefs and the people to choose a king, and tell them not to scorn thee because thou art slow to the chase and little known in war; for the stars give thee wisdom as a recompense for all.
"'Say unto the people that as the wise men of the council shape their lessons by the flight of birds, so by the flight of birds stall a token be given unto them, and they shall choose their kings.
"'For,' said, the star of right, 'the birds are children of the winds, they pass to and fro along the ocean of the air, and visit the clouds that are the warships of the gods.
"'And their music is but broken melodies which they gleam from the harps above.
"'Are they not the messengers of the storm?
"'Ere the stream chafes against the bank, and the rain descends, know ye not, by the wail of birds and their low circles over the earth, that the tempest is at hand?
"'Wherefore, wisely do ye deem that the children of the air are the fit interpreters between the sons of men and the lords of the world above.
"'Say then to the people and the chiefs, that they shall take, from among the doves that nest in the roof of the palace, a white dove, and they shall let it loose in the air, and verily the gods of the night shall deem the dove as a prayer coming from the people, and they shall send a messenger to grant the prayer and give to the tribes of Oestrich a king worthy of themselves.'
"With that the star spoke no more."
Then the friends of Voltoch murmured among themselves, and they said, "Shall this man dictate to us who shall be king?"
But the people and the warriors shouted:
"Listen to the star; do we not give or deny battle according as the bird flies—shall we not by the same token choose him by whom the battle should be led?"
And the thing seemed natural to them, for it was after the custom of the tribe.
Then they took one of the doves that built in the roof of the palace, and they bought it to the spot where Morven stood, and he, looking up to the stars and muttering to himself, released the bird.
There was a copse of trees a little distance from the spot, and as the dove ascended, a hawk suddenly rose from the copse and pursued the dove; and the dove was terrified, and soared circling high above the crowd, when, lo, the hawk, poising itself one moment on its wings, swooped with a sudden swoop, and, abandoning its prey, alighted on the plumed head of Siror.
"Behold," cried Morven in a loud voice, "behold your king!"
"Hail, all hail the king!" shouted the people. "All hail the chosen of the stars!"
Then Morven lifted his right hand, and the hawk left the prince, and alighted on Morven's shoulder.
"Bird of the gods!" said he, reverently, "hast thou not a secret message for my ear?" Then the hawk put its beak to Morven's ear, and Morven bowed his head submissively; and the hawk rested with Morven from that moment and would not be scared away.
And Morven said:
"The stars have sent me this bird, that, in the day-time, when I see them not, we may never be without a counsellor in distress."
So Siror was made king, and Maven the son of Osslah was constrained by the king's will to take Orna for his wife; and the people and the chiefs honored Morven, the prophet, above all the elders of the tribe.
One day Morven said unto himself, musing, "Am I not already equal with the king? nay, is not the king my servant? did I not place him over the heads of his brothers? am I not, therefore, more fit to reign than he is? shall I not push him from his seat?
"It is a troublesome and stormy office to reign over the wild men of Oestrich, to feast in the crowded hail, and to lead die warriors to the fray.
"Surely, if I feasted not, neither went out to war, they might say, 'This is no king, but the cripple Morven;' and some of the race of Siror might slay me secretly.
"But can I not be greater far than kings, and continue to choose and govern them, living as now at mine own ease?
"Verily, the stars shall give me a new palace, and many subjects."
Among the wise men was Darvan; and Morven feared him, for his eye often sought the movements of the son of Osslah.
And Morven said "It were better to TRUST this man than to BLIND, for surely I want a helpmate and a friend."
So he said to the wise man as he sat alone watching the setting sun:
"It seemeth to me, O Darvan! I that we ought to build a great pile in honor of the stars and the pile should be more glorious than all the palaces of the chiefs and the palaces of the king; for are not the stars our masters?
"And thou and I should be the chief dwellers in this new palace, and we would serve the gods of night, and fatten their altars with the choicest of the herd, and the freshest of the fruits of the earth."
And Darvan said:
"Thou speakest as becomes the servant of the stars. But will the people help to build the pile, for they are a war-like race and they love not toil?"
And Morven answered:
"Doubtless the stars will ordain the work to be done. Fear not."
"In truth thou art a wondrous man, thy words ever come to pass," answered Darvan; "and I wish thou wouldest teach me, friend, the language of the stars."
"Assuredly if thou servest me thou shalt know," answered the proud Morven; and Darvan was secretly wroth that the son of the herdsman should command the service of an elder and a chief.
And when Morven returned to his wife he found her weeping much.
Now she loved the son of Osslah with an exceeding love, for he was not savage and fierce as the men she had known, and she was proud of his fame among the tribe; and he took her in his arms and kissed her, and asked her why she wept.
Then she told him that her brother, the king, had visited her and had spoken bitter words of Morven.
"He taketh from me the affection of my people," said Siror, "and blindeth them with lies. And since he hath made me king, what if he take my kingdom from me? Verily, a new tale of the stars might undo the old."
And the king had ordered her to keep watch on Morven's secrecy, and to see whether truth was in him when he boasted of his commune with the Powers of Night.
But Orna loved Morven better than Siror, therefore she told her husband all.
And Morven resented the king's ingratitude, and was troubled much, for a king is a powerful foe; but tie comforted Orna, and bade her dissemble and complain also of him to her brother, so that he might confide to her unsuspectingly whatsoever he might design against Morven.
There was a cave by Morven's house in which he kept the sacred hawk, and wherein he secretly trained and nurtured other birds against future need, and the door of the cave was always barred.
And one day he was thus engaged when he beheld a chink in the wall, that he had never noted before, and the sun came playfully in; and while he looked he perceived the sunbeam was darkened, and presently he saw a human face peering in through the chink.
And Morven trembled, for he knew he had been watched.
Morven ran hastily from the cave, but the spy had disappeared among the trees, and Morven went straight to the chamber of Darvan and sat himself down.
Darvan did not return home till late, and he started and turned pale when he saw Morven.
But Morven greeted him as a brother, and bade him to a feast, which, for the first time, he purposed giving at the full of the moon, in honor of the stars.
And going out of Darvan's chamber, he returned to his wife, and bade her hair, and go at the dawn of day to the king, her brother, and complain bitterly of Morven's treatment, and pluck the black schemes from the breast of the king. "For surely," said he, "Darvan hath lied to thy brother, and some evil awaits me that I would fain know."
So the next morning Orna sought the king, and she said:
"The herdsman's son hath reviled me, and spoken harsh words to me; stall I not be avenged?"
Then the king stamped his feet and shook his mighty sword.
"Surely thou shalt be avenged, for I have learned from one of the elders that which convinceth me that the man hath lied to the people, and the base-born shall surely die.
"Yea, the first time that he goeth alone into the forest my brother and I will fall upon him and smite him to the death."
And with this comfort Siror dismissed Orna.
And Orna flung herself at the feet of her husband.
"Fly now, O my beloved!—fly into the forests afar from my brethren, or surely the sword of Siror will end thy days."
Then the son of Osslab folded his arms, and seemed buried in black thoughts; nor did he heed the voice of Orna, until again and again she had implored him to fly.
"Fly!" he said at length. "Nay, I was doubting what punishment the stars should pour down upon our foe. Let warriors fly. Morven, the prophet, conquers by arms mightier than the sword."
Nevertheless Morven was perplexed in his mind, and knew not how to save himself from the vengeance of the king.
Now, while Morven was musing hopelessly, he heard a roar of waters; and behold the river, for it was now the end of autumn, had burst its bounds, and was rushing along the valley to the houses of the city.
And now the men of the tribe, and the women, and the children, came running, and with shrieks to Morven's house, crying:
"Behold the river has burst upon us!—Save us, O ruler of the stars!"
Then the sudden thought broke upon Morven and he resolved to risk his fate upon one desperate scheme.
And he came out from the house calm and sad, and he said:
"Ye know not what ye ask; I cannot save ye from this peril: ye have brought it on yourselves."
And they cried: "How? O son of Osslah—we are ignorant of our crime."
And he answered:
"Go down to the king's palace and wait before it, and surely I will follow ye, and ye shall learn wherefore ye have incurred this punishment from the gods."
Then the crowd rolled murmuring back, as a receding sea; and when it was gone from the place, Morven went alone to the house of Darvan, which was next his own: and Darvan was greatly terrified, for he was of a great age, and had no children, neither friends, and he feared that he could not of himself escape the waters.
And Morven said to him, soothingly:
"Lo, the people love me, and I will see that thou art saved for verily thou hast been friendly to me, and done me much service with the king."
And as he thus spake, Morven opened the door of the house and looked forth, and saw that they were quite alone; then he seized the old man by the throat, and ceased not his grip till he was quite dead.
And leaving the body of the elder on the floor, Morven, stole from the house and shut the gate.
And as he was going to his cave he mused a little while, when, hearing the mighty roar of the waves advancing, and afar off the shrieks of women, he lifted up his head, and said proudly:
"No! in this hour terror alone shall be my slave; I will use no art save the power of my soul."
So, leaning on his pine staff, he strode down to the palace.
And it was now evening, and many of the men held torches, that they might see each other's faces in the universal fear.
Red flashed the quivering flames on the dark robes and pale front of Morven; and he seemed mightier than the rest, because his face alone was calm amidst the tumult.
And louder and hoarser came the roar of the waters; and swift rusted the shades of night over the hastening tide.
And Morven said in a stern voice:
"Where is the king; and wherefore is he absent from his people in the hour of dread?"
Then the gate of the palace opened; and, behold Siror was sitting in the hall by the vast pine-fire and his brother by his side, and his chiefs around him: for they would not deign to come amongst the crowd at the bidding of the herdsman's son.
Then Morven, standing upon a rock above the heads of the people (the same rack whereon he had proclaimed the king), thus spake:
"Ye desired to know, O sons of Oestrich! wherefore the river hath burst its bounds, and the peril hath come upon you.
"Learn then, that the stars resent as the foulest of human crimes an insult to their servants and delegates below.
"Ye are all aware of the manner of life of Morven, whom ye have surnamed the Prophet!
"He harms not man or beast; he lives alone; and, far from the wild joys of the warrior tribe, he worships in awe and fear the Powers of Night!
"So is he able to advise ye of the coming danger—so is he able to save ye from the foe. Thus are your huntsmen swift and your warriors bold; and thus do your cattle bring forth their young, and the earth its fruits.
"What think ye, and what do ye ask to hear?
"Listen, men of Oestrich!—they have laid snares for my life; and there are amongst you those who have whetted the sword against the bosom that is only filled with love for you.
"Therefore have the stern lords of heaven loosened the chains of the river—therefore doth this evil menace ye.
"Neither will it pass away until they who dig the pit for the servant of the stars are buried in the same."
Then, by the red torches, the faces of the men looked fierce and threatening; and ten thousand voices shouted forth:
"Name them who conspired against thy life, O holy prophet! and surely they shall be torn limb from limb."
And Morven turned aside, and they saw that he wept bitterly; and he said:
"Ye have asked me, and I have answered: but now scarce will ye believe the foe that I have provoked against me; and by the heavens themselves I swear, that if my death would satisfy their fury, nor bring down upon yourselves, and your children's children, the anger of the throned stars, gladly would I give my bosom to the knife. Yes," he cried, lifting up his voice, and pointing his shadowy arm towards the hall where the king sat by the pine-fire—"yes, thou whom by my voice the stars chose above thy brother—yes, Siror, the guilty one! take thy sword, and come hither—strike, if thou hast the heart to strike, the Prophet of the Gods!"
The king started to his feet, and the crowd were hushed in a shuddering silence.
"Know then, O men of Oestrich, that Siror and Voltoch, his brother, and Darvan, the elder of the wise men, have purposed to slay your prophet, even at such hour as when alone he seeks the shade of the forest to devise new benefits for you. Let the king deny it, if he can!"
Then Voltoch, of the giant limbs, strode forth from the hall, and his spear quivered in his hand.
"Rightly hast thou spoken, base son of my father's herdsman! and for thy sins shalt thou surely die; for thou liest when thou speakest of thy power with the stars, and thou laughest at the folly of them who hear thee: wherefore put him to death."
Then the chiefs in the hall clashed their arms, and rushed forth to slay the son of Osslah.
But he, stretching his unarmed hands on high, exclaimed:
"Hear him, O dread ones of the night—hark how he blasphemeth."
Then the crowd took up the word, and cried:
"He blasphemeth—he blasphemeth against the prophet!"
But the king and the chiefs who hated Morven, because of his power with the people, rushed into the crowd; and the crowd were irresolute, nor knew they how to act, for never yet had they rebelled against their chiefs, and they feared alike the prophet and the king.
And Siror cried:
"Summon Darvan to us, for he bath watched the steps of Morven, and he shall lift the veil from my people's eyes."
Then three of the swift of foot started forth to the house of Darvan.
And Morven cried out with a loud voice:
"Hark! thus saith the star who, now riding through yonder cloud breaks forth upon my eyes—'For the lie that the elder hath uttered against my servant, the curse of the stars shall fall upon him.' Seek, and as ye find him, so may ye find ever the foes of Morven and the gods."
A chill and an icy fear fell over the crowd, and even the cheek of Siror grew pale; and Morven, erect and dark above the waving torches, stood motionless with folded arms.
And hark—far and fast came on the war-steeds of the wave—the people heard them marching to the land, and tossing their white manes in the roaring wind.
"Lo, as ye listen," said Morven, calmly, "the river sweeps on. Haste, for the gods will have a victim, be it your prophet or your king."
"Slave!" shouted Siror, and his spear left his hand, and far above the heads of the crowd sped hissing beside the dark form of Morven, and rent the trunk of the oak behind.
Then the people, wroth at the danger of their beloved seer, uttered a wild yell, and gathered round him with brandished swords, facing their chieftains and their king.
But at that instant, ere the war had broken forth among the tribe, the three warriors returned, and they bore Darvan on their shoulders, and laid him at the feet of the king, and they said tremblingly:
"Thus found we the elder in the centre of his own hall."
And the people saw that Darvan was a corpse, and that the prediction of Morven was thus verified.
"So perish the enemies of Morven and the Stars!" cried the son of Osslah. And the people echoed the cry.
Then the fury of Siror was at its height, and waving his sword above his head, he plunged into the crowd:
"Thy blood, base-born, or mine."
"So be it!" answered Morven, quailing not. "People, smite the blasphemer. Hark how the river pours down upon your children and your hearths. On, on, or ye perish!"
And Siror fell, pierced by five hundred spears.
"Smite! smite!" cried Morven, as the chiefs of the royal house gathered round the king.
And the clash of swords, and the gleam of spears, and the cries of the dying, and the yell of the trampling people, mingled with the roar of the elements, and the voices of the rushing wave.
Three hundred of the chiefs perished that night by the swords of their own tribe. And the last cry of the victors was, "Morven the prophet—MORVEN THE KING!"
And the son of Osslah, seeing the waves now spreading over the valley, led Orna his wife, and the men of Oestrich, their women and their children, to a high mount, where they waited the dawning sun.
But Orna sat apart and wept bitterly, for her brothers were no more, and her race had perished from the earth.
And Morven sought to comfort her in vain.
When the morning rose, they saw that the river had overspread the greater part of the city, and now stayed its course among the hollows of the vale.
Then Morven said to the people: "The star kings are avenged, and their wrath appeased. Tarry only here until the water have melted into the crevices of the soil."
And on the fourth day they returned to the city, and no man dared to name another, save Morven, as the king.
But Morven retired into his cave and mused deeply; and then assembling the people, he gave them new laws; and he made them build a mighty temple in honor of the stars, and made them heap within it all that the tribe held most precious.
And he took unto him fifty children from the most famous of the tribe; and he took also ten from among the men who had served him best, and he ordained that they should serve the stars in the great temple: and Morven was their chief.
And he put away the crown they pressed upon him, and he chose from among the elders a new king.
And he ordained that henceforth the servants only of the stars in the great temple should elect the king and the rulers, and hold council, and proclaim war: but he suffered the king to feast, and to hunt, and to make merry in the banquet halls.
And Morven built altars in the temple, and was the first who, in the North, sacrificed the beast and the bird, and afterwards human flesh, upon the altars.
And he drew auguries from the entrails of the victim, and made schools for the science of the prophet; and Morven's piety was the wonder of the tribe, in that he refused to be a king.
And Morven, the high-priest, was ten thousand times mightier than the king.
He taught the people to till the ground, and to sow the herb; and by his wisdom, and the valor that his prophecies instilled into men, he conquered all the neighboring tribes.
And the sons of Oestrich spread themselves over a mighty empire, and with them spread the name and the laws of Morven.
And in every province which he conquered, he ordered them to build a temple to the stars.
But a heavy sorrow fell upon the years of Morven.
The sister of Siror bowed down her head and survived not long the slaughter of her race.
And she left Morven childless.
And he mourned bitterly and as one distraught, for her only in the world had his heart the power to love.
And he sat down and covered his face, saying:
"Lo: I have conquered and travailed; and never before in the world did man conquer what I have conquered.
"Verily, the empire of the iron thews and the giant limbs is no more; I have found a new power, that henceforth shall sway the lands;—the empire of plotting brain and a commanding mind.
"But, behold, my fate is barren, and I feel already that it will grow neither fruit nor tree as a shelter to mine old age.
"Desolate and lonely shall I pass away unto my grave.
"O Orna! my beautiful! my loved! none were like unto thee, and to thy love do I owe my glory and my life.
"Would for thy sake, O sweet bird! that nestled in the dark cavern of my heart—would for thy sake that thy brethren had been spared, for verily with my life would I have purchased thine.
"Alas! only when I lost thee did I find that thy love was dearer to me than the fear of others."
And Morven mourned night and day, and none might comfort him.
But from that time forth he gave himself solely to the cares of his calling; and his nature and his affections, and whatever there was left soft in him, grew hard like stone; and he was a man without love, and he forbade love and marriage to the priest.
Now, in his latter years, there arose OTHER prophets; for the world had grown wiser even by Morven's wisdom, and some did say unto themselves:
"Behold Morven, the herdsman's son, is a king of kings: this did the stars for their servant; shall we not, therefore, be also servants to the star?"
And they wore black garments like Morven, and went about prophesying of what the stars foretold them.
And Morven was exceeding wroth; for he, more than other men, knew that the prophets lied; wherefore he went forth against them with the ministers of the temple, and he took them and burned them by a slow fire: for thus said Morven to the people:
"A true prophet hath honor, but I only am a true prophet!"
"To all false prophets there shall be surely death."
And the people applauded the piety of the son of Osslah.
And Morven educated the wisest of the children in the mysteries of the temple, so that they grew up to succeed him worthily.
And he died full of years and honor; and they carved his effigy on a mighty stone before the temple, and the effigy endured for a thousand ages, and whoso looked on it trembled; for the face was calm with the calmness of unspeakable awe!
And Morven was the first mortal of the North that made Religion the stepping stone to Power.
Of a surety Morven was a great man!
It was the last night of the old year, and the stars sat, each upon his ruby throne, and watched with sleepless eyes upon the world. The night was dark and troubled, the dread winds were abroad, and fast and frequent hurried the clouds beneath the thrones of the kings of night. But ever and anon fiery meteors flashed along the depths of heaven, and were again swallowed up in the graves of darkness.
And far below his brethren, and with a lurid haze around his orb, sat the discontented star that had watched over the hunters of the North. And on the lowest abyss of space there was spread a thick and mighty gloom, from which, as from a caldron, rose columns of wreathing smoke; and still, when the great winds rested for an instant on their paths, voices of woe and laughter, mingled with shrieks, were heard booming from the abyss to the upper air.
And now, in the middest night, a vast figure rose slowly from the abyss, and its wings threw blackness over the world. High upward to the throne of the discontented star sailed the fearful shape, and the star trembled on his throne when the form stood before him face to face. And the shape said: "Hail, brother!—all hail!"
"I know thee not," answered the star: "thou art not the archangel that visitests the kings of night."
And the shape laughed loud. "I am the fallen star of the morning.—I am Lucifer, thy brother. Hast thou not, O sullen king, served me and mine? and hast thou not wrested the earth from thy Lord who sittest above and given it to me by darkening the souls of men with the religion of fear? Wherefore come, brother, come;—thou hast a throne prepared beside my own in the fiery gloom. Come.—The heavens are no more for thee." Then the star rose from his throne, and descended to the side of Lucifer. For ever hath the spirit of discontent had sympathy with the soul of pride.
And slowly they sank down to the gulf of gloom. It was the first night of the new year, and the stars sat each on his ruby throne, and watched with sleepless eyes upon the world. But sorrow dimmed the bright faces of the kings of night, for they mourned in silence and in fear for a fallen brother.
And the gates of the heaven of heavens flew open with a golden sound, and the swift archangel fled down on his silent wings; and the archangel gave to each of the stars, as before, the message of his Lord; and to each star was his appointed charge.
And when the heraldry seemed done, there came a laugh from the abyss of gloom, and half way from the gulf rose the lurid shape of Lucifer, the fiend.
"Thou countest thy flock ill, O radiant shepherd. Behold! one star is missing from the three thousand and ten."
"Back to thy gulf, false Lucifer!—the throne of thy brother hath been filled."
And lo! as the archangel spake, the stars beheld a young and all lustrous stranger on the throne of the erring star; and his face was so soft to look upon, that the dimmest of human eyes might have gazed upon its splendor unabashed; but the dark fiend alone was dazzled by its lustre, and, with a yell that shook the flaming pillars of the universe, he plunged backwards into the gloom.
Then, far and sweet from the arch unseen, came forth the voice of God:
"Behold! on the throne of the discontented star sits the star of hope; and he that breathed into mankind the Religion of Fear hath a successor in him who shall teach earth the Religion of Love."
And evermore the Star of Fear dwells with Lucifer, and the Star of Love keeps vigil in heaven.
ON THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
By Lord Brougham
A DISSERTATION ON THE ORIGIN OF EVIL.
The question which has more than, any other harassed metaphysical reasoners, but especially theologians, and upon which it is probable that no very satisfactory conclusion will ever be reached by the human faculties, is the Origin and Sufferance of Evil.
Its existence being always assumed, philosophers have formed various theories for explaining it, but they have always drawn very different inferences from it.
The ancient Epicureans argued against the existence of the Deity, because they held that the existence of Evil either proved him to be limited in power or of a malignant nature; either of which imperfections is inconsistent with the first notions of a divine being.
In this kind of reasoning they have been followed both by the atheists and sceptics of later times.
Bayle regarded the subject of evil as one of the great arsenals from whence his weapons were to be chiefly drawn. None of the articles in his famous Dictionary are more labored than those in which he treats of this subject. Monichian, and still more Paulician, almost assume the appearance of formal treatises upon the question; and both Marchionite and Zoroaster treat of the same subject. All these articles are of considerable value; they contain the greater part of the learning upon the question; and they are distinguished by the acuteness of reasoning which was the other characteristic of their celebrated author.
Those ancient philosophers who did not agree with Epicurus in arguing from the existence of evil against the existence of a providence that superintended and influenced the destinies of the world, were put to no little difficulty in accounting for the fact which they did not deny, and yet maintaining the power of a divine ruler. The doctrine of a double principle, or of two divine beings of opposite natures, one beneficent, the other mischievous, was the solution which one class of reasoners deemed satisfactory, and to which they held themselves driven by the phenomena of the universe.
Others unable to deny, the existence of things which men denominate evil, both physical and moral, explain them in a different way. They maintained that physical evil only obtains the name from our imperfect and vicious or feeble dispositions; that to a wise man there is no such thing; that we may rise superior to all such groveling notions as make us dread or repine at any events which can befall the body; that pain, sickness, loss of fortune or of reputation, exile, death itself, are only accounted ills by a weak and pampered mind; that if we find the world tiresome, or woeful, or displeasing, we may at any moment quit it; and that therefore we have no right whatever to call any suffering connected with existence on earth an evil, because almost all sufferings can be borne by a patient and firm mind; since if the situation we are placed in becomes either intolerable, or upon the whole more painful than agreeable, it is our own fault that we remain in it.
But these philosophers took a further view of the question which especially applied to moral evil. They considered that nothing could be more groundless than to suppose that if there were no evil there could be any good in the world; and they illustrated this position by asking how we could know anything of temperance, fortitude or justice, unless there were such things as excess, cowardice and injustice.
These were the doctrines of the Stoics, from whose sublime and impracticable philosophy they seemed naturally enough to flow. Aulus Gellius relates that the last-mentioned argument was expounded by Chrysippus, in his work upon providence. The answer given by Plutarch seems quite sufficient: "As well might you say that Achilles could not have a fine head of hair unless Thersites had been bald; or that one man's limbs could not be all sound if another had not the gout."
In truth, the Stoical doctrine proceeds upon the assumption that all virtue is only the negative of vice; and is as absurd, if indeed it be not the very same absurdity, as the doctrine which should deny the existence of affirmative or positive truths, resolving them all into the opposite of negative propositions. Indeed, if we even were to admit this as an abstract position, the actual existence of evil would still be unnecessary to the idea, and still more to the existence, of good. For the conception of evil, the bare idea of its possibility, would be quite sufficient, and there would be no occasion for a single example of it.
The other doctrine, that of two opposite principles, was embraced by most of the other sects, as it should seem, at some period or other of their inquiries. Plato himself, in his later works, was clearly a supporter of the system; for he held that there were at least two principles, a good and an evil; to which he added a third, the moderator or mediator between them.
Whether this doctrine was, like many others, imported into Greece from the East, or was the natural growth of the schools, we cannot ascertain. Certain it is that the Greeks themselves believed it to have been taught by Zoroaster in Asia, at least five centuries before the Trojan war; so that it had an existence there long before the name of philosophy was known in the western world.
Zoroaster's doctrine agreed in every respect with Plato's; for besides Oomazes, the good, and Arimanius, the evil principle, he taught that there was a third, or mediatory one, called Mithras. That it never became any part of the popular belief in Greece or Italy is quite clear. All the polytheism of those countries recognized each of the gods as authors alike of good and evil. Nor did even the chief of the divinities, under whose power the rest were placed, offer any exception to the general rule; for Jupiter not only gave good from one urn and ill from another, but he was also, according to the barbarous mythology of classical antiquity, himself a model at once of human perfections and of human vices.
After the light of the Christian religion had made some way toward supplanting the ancient polytheism, the doctrine of two principles was broached; first by Marcion, who lived in the time of Adrian and Antonius Pius, early in the second century; and next by Manes, a hundred years later. He was a Persian slave, who was brought into Greece, where he taught this doctrine, since known by his name, having learned it, as is said, from Scythianus, an Arabian. The Manichean doctrines, afterwards called also Paulician, from a great teacher of them in the seventh century, were like almost all the heresies in the primitive church, soon mixed up with gross impurities of sacred rites as well as extravagant absurdities of creed.
The Manicheans were, probably as much on this account as from the spirit of religious intolerance, early the objects of severe persecution; and the Code of Justinian itself denounces capital punishment against any of the sect, if found within the Roman dominions.
It must be confessed that the theory of two principles, when kept free from the absurdities and impurities which were introduced into the Manichean doctrine, is not unnaturally adopted by men who have no aid from the light of revelation, and who are confounded by the appearance of a world where evil and good are mixed together, or seem to struggle with one another, sometimes the one prevailing, and sometimes the other; and accordingly, in all countries, in the most barbarous nations, as well as among the most refined, we find plain traces of reflecting men having been driven to this solution of the difficulty.
It seems upon a superficial view to be very easily deducible from the phenomena; and as the idea of infinite power, with which it is manifestly inconsistent, does by no means so naturally present itself to the mind, as long as only a very great degree of power, a power which in comparison of all human force may be termed infinite, is the attribute with which the Deity is believed to be endued. Manichean hypothesis is by no means so easily refuted. That the power of the Deity was supposed to have limits even in the systems of the most enlightened heathens is unquestionable. They, generally speaking, believed in the eternity of matter, and conceived some of its qualities to be so essentially necessary to its existence that no divine agency could alter them. They ascribed to the Deity a plastic power, a power not of creating or annihilating, but only of moulding, disposing and moving matter. So over mind they generally give him the like power, considering it as a kind of emanation from his own greater mind or essence, and destined to be re-united with him hereafter. Nay, over all the gods, and of superior potency to any, they conceived fate to preside; an overruling and paramount necessity, of which they formed some dark conceptions, and to which the chief of all the gods was supposed to submit. It is, indeed, extremely difficult to state precisely what the philosophic theory of theology was in Greece and Rome, because the wide difference between the esoteric and exoteric doctrines, between the belief of the learned few and the popular superstition, makes it very difficult to avoid confounding the two, and lending to the former some of the grosser errors with which the latter abounded. Nevertheless, we may rely upon what has been just stated, as conveying, generally speaking, the opinion of philosophers, although some sects certainly had a still more scanty measure of belief.
But we shall presently find that in the speculation of the much more enlightened moderns, Christians of course, errors of a like kind are to be traced. They constantly argue the great question of evil upon a latent assumption, that the power of the Deity is restricted by some powers or qualities inherent in matter; notions analogous to that of faith are occasionally perceptible; not stated or expanded indeed into propositions, but influencing the course of the reasoning; while the belief of infinite attributes is never kept steadily in view, except when it is called in as requisite to refute the Manichean doctrines. Some observers of the controversy have indeed not scrupled to affirm that those of whom we speak are really Manicheans without knowing it; and build their systems upon assumptions secretly borrowed from the disciples of Zoroaster, without ever stating those assumptions openly in the form of postulates or definition.
The refutation of the Manichean hypothesis is extremely easy if we be permitted to assume that both the principles which it supposes are either of infinite power or of equal power. If they are of infinite power, the supposition of their co-existence involves a contradiction in terms; for the one being in opposition to the other, the power of each must be something taken from that of the other; consequently neither can be of infinite power. If, again, we only suppose both to be of equal power, and always acting against each other, there could be nothing whatever done, neither good or evil; the universe would be at a standstill; or rather no act of creation could ever have been performed, and no existence could be conceived beyond that of the two antagonistic principles.
Archbishop Tillotson's argument, properly speaking, amounts to this last proposition, and is applicable to equal and opposite principles, although he applies it to two beings, both infinitely powerful and counteracting one another. When he says they would tie up each other's bands, he might apply this argument to such antagonistic principles if only equal, although not infinitely powerful. The hypothesis of their being both infinitely powerful needs no such refutation; it is a contradiction in terms. But it must be recollected that the advocates of the Manichean doctrine endeavor to guard themselves against the attack by contending, that the conflict between the two principles ends in a kind of compromise, so that neither has it all his own way; there is a mixture of evil admitted by the good principle, because else the whole would beat a standstill; while there is much good admitted by the evil principle, else nothing, either good or evil, would be done. Another answer is therefore required to this theory than what Tillotson and his followers have given.
First, we must observe that this reasoning of the Manicheans proceeds upon the analogy of what we see in mortal contentions; where neither party having the power to defeat the other, each is content to yield a little to his adversary, and so, by mutual concession, both are successful to some extent, and both to some extent disappointed. But in a speculation concerning the nature of the Deity, there seems no place for such notions.
Secondly, the equality of power is not an arbitrary assumption; it seems to follow from the existence of the two opposing principles. For if they are independent of one another as to existence, which they must needs be, else one would immediately destroy the other, so must they also, in each particular instance, be independent of each other, and also equal each to the other, else one would have the mastery, and the influence of the other could not be perceived. To say that in some things the good principle prevails and in others the evil, is really saying nothing more than that good exists here and evil there. It does not further the argument one step, nor give anything like an explanation. For it must always be borne in mind that the whole question respecting the Origin of Evil proceeds upon the assumption of a wise, benevolent and powerful Being having created the world. The difficulty, and the only difficulty, is, how to reconcile existing evil with such a Being's attributes; and if the Manichean only explains this by saying the good Being did what is good, and another and evil Being did what is bad in the universe, he really tells us nothing more than the fact; he does not apply his explanation to the difficulty; and he supposes the existence of a second Deity gratuitously and to no kind of purpose.
But, thirdly, in whatever light we view the hypothesis, it seems exposed to a similar objection, namely, of explaining nothing in its application, while it is wholly gratuitous in itself. It assumes, of course, that creation was the act of the good Being; and it also assumes that Being's goodness to have been perfect, though his power is limited. Then as he must have known the existence of the evil principle and foreseen the certainty of misery being occasioned by his existence, why did he voluntarily create sentient beings, to put them, in some respects at least, under the evil one's power, and thus be exposed to suffering? The good Being, according to this theory, is the remote cause of the evil which is endured, because but for his act of creation the evil Being could have had, no subjects whereon to work mischief; so that the hypothesis wholly fails in removing, by more than one step, the difficulty which it was invented to solve.
Fourthly, there is no advantage gained to the argument by supposing two Beings, rather than one Being of a mixed nature. The facts lead to this supposition just as naturally as to the hypothesis of two principles. The existence of the evil Being is as much a detraction from the power of the good one, as if we only at once suppose the latter to be of limited power, and that he prefers making and supporting creatures who suffer much less than they enjoy, to making no creatures at all. The supposition that he made them as happy as he could, and that not being able to make them less miserable, he yet perceived that upon the whole their existence would occasion more happiness than if they never had any being at all, will just account for the phenomena as well as the Manichean theory, and will as little as that theory assume any malevolence in the power which created and preserved the universe. If, however, it be objected that this hypothesis leaves unexplained the fetters upon the good Being's power, the answer is obvious; it leaves those fetters not at all less explained than the Manichean theory does; for that theory gives no explanation of the existence of a counteracting principle, and it assumes both an antagonistic power, to limit the Deity's power, and a malevolent principle to set the antagonistic power in motion; whereas our supposition assumes no malevolence at all, but only a restraint upon the divine power.
Fifthly, this leads us to another and most formidable objection. To conceive the eternal existence of one Being infinite in power, "self-created and creating all others," is by no means impossible. Indeed, as everything must have had a cause, nothing we see being by possibility self-created, we naturally mount from particulars to generals, until finally we rise to the idea of a first cause, uncreated, and self-existing, and eternal. If the phenomena compels us to affix limits to his goodness, we find it impossible to conceive limits to the power of a creative, eternal, self-existing principle. But even supposing we could form the conception of such a Being having his power limited as well as his goodness, still we can conceive no second Being independent of him. This would necessarily lead to the supposition of some third Being, above and antecedent to both, and the creator of both—the real first cause—and then the whole question would be to solve over again,—Why these two antagonistic Beings were suffered to exist by the great Being of all?
The Manichean doctrine, then, is exposed to every objection to which a theory can be obnoxious. It is gratuitous; it is inapplicable to the facts; it supposes more causes than are necessary; it fails to explain the phenomena, leaving the difficulties exactly where it found them. Nevertheless, such is the theory, how easily soever refuted when openly avowed and explicitly stated, which in various disguises appears to pervade the explanations, given of the facts by most of the other systems; nay, to form, secretly and unacknowledged, their principal ground-work. For it really makes very little difference in the matter whether we are to account for evil by holding that the Deity has created as much happiness as was consistent with "the nature of things," and has taken every means of avoiding all evil except "where it necessarily existed" or at once give those limiting influences a separate and independent existence, and call them by a name of their own, which is the Manichean hypothesis.
The most remarkable argument on this subject, and the most distinguished both for its clear and well ordered statement, and for the systematic shape which it assumes, is that of Archbishop King. It is the great text-book of those who study this subject; and like the famous legal work of Littleton, it has found an expounder yet abler and more learned than the author himself. Bishop Law's commentary is full of information, of reasoning and of explication; nor can we easily find anything valuable upon the subject which is not contained in the volumes of that work. It will, however, only require a slight examination of the doctrines maintained by these learned and pious men, to satisfy us that they all along either assume the thing to be proved, or proceed upon suppositions quite inconsistent with the infinite power of the Deity—the only position which raises a question, and which makes the difficulty that requires to be solved.
According to all the systems as well as this one, evil is of two kinds—physical and moral. To the former class belong all the sufferings to which sentient beings are exposed from the qualities and affections of matter independent of their own acts; the latter class consists of the sufferings of whatever kind which arise from their own conduct. This division of the subject, however, is liable to one serious objection; it comprehends under the second head a class of evils which ought more properly to be ranged under the first. Nor is this a mere question of classification: it affects the whole scope of the argument. The second of the above-mentioned classes comprehends both the physical evils which human agency causes, but which it would have no power to cause unless the qualities of matter were such as to produce pain, privation and death; and also the moral evil of guilt which may possibly exist independent of material agency, but which, whether independent or not upon that physical action, is quite separable from it, residing wholly in the mind. Thus a person who destroys the life of another produces physical evil by means of the constitution of matter, and moral evil is the source of his wicked action. The true arrangement then is this: Physical evil is that which depends on the constitution of matter, or only is so far connected with the constitution of mind as that the nature and existence of a sentient being must be assumed in order to its mischief being felt. And this physical evil is of two kinds; that which originates in human action, and that which is independent of human action, befalling us from the unalterable course of nature. Of the former class are the pains, privations and destruction inflicted by men one upon another; of the latter class are diseases, old age and death. Moral evil consists in the crimes, whether of commission or omission, which men are guilty of—including under the latter head those sufferings which we endure from ill-regulated minds through want of fortitude or self-control. It is clear that as far as the question of the origin of evil is concerned, the first of these two classes, physical evil, depends upon the properties of matter, and the last upon those of mind. The second as well as the first subdivision of the physical class depends upon matter; because, however ill-disposed the agent's mind may be, he could inflict the mischief only in consequence of the constitution of matter. Therefore, the Being, who created matter enabled him to perpetrate the evil, even admitting that this Being did not, by creating the mind also give rise to the evil disposition; and admitting that, as far as regards this disposition it has the same origin with the evil of the second class, or moral evil, the acts of a rational agent.
It is quite true that many reasoners refuse to allow any distinction between the evil produced by natural causes and the evils caused by rational agents, whether as regards their own guilt, or the mischief it caused to others. Those reasoners deny that the creation of man's will and the endowing it with liberty explains anything; they hold that the creation of a mind whose will is to do evil, amounts to the same thing, and belongs to the same class, with the creation of matter whose nature is to give pain and misery. But this position, which involves the doctrine of necessity, must, at the very least, admit of one modification. Where no human agency whatever is interposed, and the calamity comes without any one being to blame for it, the mischief seems a step, and a large step, nearer the creative or the superintending cause, because it is, as far as men go, altogether inevitable. The main tendency of the argument, therefore, is confined to physical evil; and this has always been found the most difficult to account for, that is to reconcile with the government of a perfectly good and powerful Being. It would indeed be very easily explained, and the reconcilement would be readily made, if we were at liberty to suppose matter independent in its existence, and in certain qualities, of the divine control; but this would be to suppose the Deity's power limited and imperfect, which is just one horn of the Epicurean dilemma, "Aut vult et non potest;" and in assuming this, we do not so much beg the question as wholly give it up and admit we cannot solve the difficulty. Yet obvious as this is, we shall presently see that the reasoners who have undertaken the solution, and especially King and Law, under such phrases as "the nature of things," and "the laws of the material universe," have been constantly, through the whole argument, guilty of this petitio principii (begging the question), or rather this abandonment of the whole question, and never more so than at the very moment when they complacently plumed themselves upon having overcome the difficulty.