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A TEMPERANCE TA L E.
In the city of Louisville, as is well known by the inhabitants, there exists a large and respectable community of rats. As you pass through the streets of a.moonlight evening, you will frequently find little knots of them, (probably politicians) engaged in such earnest confabulation that they will hardly perceive your approach, or move out of your way. Rats are an ancient race—whether a couple were in Noah's ark is uncertain—if they were, the Patriarch's descendants would willingly have excused him from giving them a berth. For unfortunately there-exists controversies between the descendants of Noah and the rat family, on important topics. A question frequently discussed is the right of property. The rats are true agrarians in their principles—they hold that there should be no monopoly of food, and they carry out their principles so far, as to force their way into every closet, store-house, and every locked up place where this is deposited. So consistent is the theory and practice of the rats of Louisville. They are willing to carry their principles out to the farthest results.
Now, it happened that a gentleman, who had in his possession a large store-house filled with various provisions, found these rat arguments so powerful, that he looked about for some convincing reply. It was highly necessary for his answer to be spirited and sudden, for the rats had forced their way through holes in the floor and sides of the apartments, and had levied attachments on his provisions. Now he had heard, that if you can persuade rats to eat any kind of poison, and thus destroy one or two, that the rest through fear will avoid the place where their companions fell. With this idea, he requested his wife to bake one or two pies and some cake, into which had been previously mixed a good quantity of arsenic. These he placed on the floor of his store room and locked the doors. Soon the rats began to assemble—saw the pies, smelt of them, tasted them—some young and imprudent ones eat a great deal-others a little--others, more wary, declined tasting. Next morning there was great trouble among the rats. Several had died in great agony--others were very sick-others were indisposed. A council was summoned to consider what should be done.
An old long whiskered rat proposed, as the safest course, that they should change their quarters.
"It is evident,” says
he, "we are in danger—we have enemies—they may be too cunning for us--there are traps and cats as well as poison. I propose that we remove bag and baggage."
“No indeed,” says another, flirting his tail in high disdain, "to run from danger is unratlike—besides, it is unnecessary, we have only to confine ourselves to our old fare, and not meddle with the pies."
“But,” says one, “only those who have eaten a great deal have suffered. Those who only nibble a little, are as well as ever, and the pies are really very good.”
One red faced and very fat rat here spoke out and said that he had been unwell, and he really thought the little piece of poisoned cake he ate before had been of service to him.
When the debate had taken this turn, it soon became evident that the notice to vacate the premises would be lost ---so also that to abstain wholly from the poisoned fare — the general sense of the meeting being this — that it was better to eat temperately than to abstain.
But when night came and the pies, smoking from the oven, were placed upon the floor, the rats found it more difficult to eat temperately than they supposed. They nibbled a little and by and bye nibbled again—and again and again—and before morning the pies were again eaten entirely up, and again several rats died, and others were sadly tormented with spasmodic affections and grievous colics.
Another public meeting took place, and now it seemed to be the prevailing opinion that it was better to abstain from the pies entirely, except under certain circumstances. This exception arose from the stout assertion of some half-dozen rats that they had eaten and had not been injured. It was remarked, however, that some of these had very strong constitutionsand that others were of such a disposition that they had rather be sick than abstain from tempting food.
At last an elderly rat proposed that, as it was evidently a very unsafe thing to eat of this peculiar provision--as it was unnecessary, there being enough of other provision--that they had better resolve not to eat of it at all, and proposed, that for better security they should pledge themselves to each other not to taste at all.
At this proposal there was a great outcry and much confused squealing. The temperate poison eaters, as they called themselves, still thought it better to use the thing prudently—and paid no attention to the fact, that some found it very difficult to continue temperate—that they were apt to be gradually led on from temperate poison eating to intemperate poison eating,
and that a high authority had said, that "if my meat causeth my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world lasts, lest I cause my brother to offend."
A good many called the mover of this pledge a fanatic, and said something about reaction. They agreed that those who abstained entirely would be likely after a while to eat a great deal more than those who had no rule about it. Either the reporter failed to do justice to this part of the debate, or they did not express their views very clearly.
A great many did not like the idea of a pledge. They said there was no merit in abstaining from such a motive as thisthat there was more moral, power in governing yourself without any promise--and still more in eating a little and then leaving off.
The mover of the proposition replied with a smile, that no doubt it would be better for all rats to have a perfect power over their appetites, but the question was, what was likely to be the case he also made a number of other remarks which no one appeared to listen to.
A few took the pledge—the rest went away well convinced that they could govern their appetites at pleasure.
Night came-those rats who were pledged abstained entirely from the poison and were safe. But the others made a new discovery-this was, that those who had eaten once or twice of the poison had acquired so strong an appetite for it that they could not refrain from it, but went on eating although they knew it would destroy them. It was dreadful to see these poor creatures, who while suffering under the torture, could not abstain from increasing it.
What has been the result of the efforts of the Complete Poison Abstinence Society I know not, but I suppose not a great deal, for the gentleman informs me that he finds many dead and dying about his premises every day, but that they continue to devour the medicated provisions every evening.
“But what is the moral of this fable! Every fable should have a moral.” The moral? If it has one it will be easily detected--if not it will do little good to tack on a prosing one to the end.
J. F. C.
FROM GOETHE'S POSTHUMOUS WORKS. VOL. XIV.
It is often said, and very justly, that scepticism is only an inverted kind of superstition. This sort of superstition is the chief evil of the present age. A noble action is called selfishness; a heroic exploit we ascribe to vanity; an undeniable product of poetic genius we attribute to a feverish and unsound state of mind. What is still more extraordinary, we are accustomed to deny as long as we can the very existence of the most excellent and remarkable events which occur around us.
This scepticism is worse than superstition. This, our age's folly, is worse than attributing extraordinary events, which have actually happened and which we cannot explain, to the power of Satan. Superstition is the inheritance of energetic, heroic, progressive natures-scepticism belongs to weak, contracted, shrinking men, who venture not out of themselves. The first class love what is astonishing, hecause it excites in them the feeling of the sublime, of which their soul is capable. Yet as a kind of apprehension mingles with this feeling, they ascribe the cause to an evil principle. But an effeminate generation dreads the excitement of sublimity; it would be destroyed by it; and since no one can be expected to acquiesce in his own destruction, it acts wisely in denying the great and elevated while in its neighborhood, and only admitting its reality when it becomes historical, and can be more easily regarded from a suitable distance, in a somewhat moderate effulgence.
And tacks the centre to the sphere?
[We introduce our remarks on this important subject with the fol
lowing letter, which we received a few days since, through the Post Office.]
To the Editor of the Western Messenger :
Though not a Unitarian I have been a subscriber to the Messenger since its commencement. All my early prejudices and opinions were rather unfavorable than otherwise to Unitarians and their notions, and I hope I may be allowed, though it is apart from the purpose of this communication, to express the opinion, that your Magazine while it has been zealous and uncompromising in defending your views of the truth, has been in a most remarkable degree free from the violence and rancor in which religious disputants are so apt to rejoice. Not however but that your correspondents have sometimes indulged in a complacent approbation of the great intelligence and progress of Unitarians beyond the rest of the world, and a very complacent assumption of liberality and freedom from cant and bigotry. Be these things as they may, I have perplexed myself with studies of your doctrines, and am in the most unfortunate condition, that I can find no satisfactory answer to the arguments of their supporters or their opponents. If I could hear but one side, like the sagacious judge, I should find no difficulty. But how can Unitarians with their professed rules of reasoning, stop where most of them do. It seems to me that if I leave the old opinions of my fathers and abandon the standard doctrines which have been laid down for me to believe, I cannot stop short of the theory of Universalism. Those passages in scripture which oppose it seem, to my judgment, far less forcible than those which are used in opposition to the leading doctrine of your church. The chief object of the first portion of the Epistle to the Ephesians seems to be to declare the eternal purpose of God, that in Christ all things (observe the comprehensive, abstract neuter) in heaven and on earth should be gathered; wherefore the Apostle calls on the Ephesians to rejoice in this revelation of the will of God. How often are we told, that it is the will of God that all should be saved, should come to the knowledge of the truth, and as if to remove every lingering particle of doubt, that he worked all things after the counsel of his own will. Then again, the 15th chapter of I Corinthians, which gives us our fullest accounts of the resurrection, would certainly leave upon the mind of the reader the impression, that as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive, to different degrees indeed of existence, but still all to such a state, that in the glorious