Imagens das páginas

to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

8. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?

9. And Satan answered the Lord and said, Doth Job fear God for naught?

11. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

I have been at my countryseat, and in different places visiting my friends.

8. And God said, Well, what think you of Lord Job? You see he is my best friend, a perfectly honest man, full of respect for me, and avoiding every thing that might offend me.

9. And Satan answered, Does your majesty imagine that his good conduct is the effect of personal attachment and affection?

11. Try him- only withdraw your favor, turn him out of his places, and withhold his pensions, and you will soon find him in the opposition.

The plan is beneath criticism. Were such a piece of folly ever begun, there would remain but one other depth of folly to which it would be possible to go down. Franklin proposed to fit out the Kingdom of Heaven with lords, nobles, a ministry, and levee days. It would on the same principle be proper to make another version suitable for republics; a version from which every term and expression peculiar to

a monarchy should be carefully kept out, and only such as are applicable to a republic put in. Nor would he have hesitated to make such a version. The Bible was to him in no sense a book for spiritual guidance. It showed a most amazing knowledge of the heart of man, of the actions of men, of the passions and temptations of men, and of the way in which during moments of passion and temptation men would surely act. It abounded in examples as often to be shunned as followed. It taught just such lessons as he was teaching, lessons of honesty, thrift, diligence, worldly wisdom, and sometimes of politics. But it displayed this knowledge, held up these examples, and taught these lessons, that men might be happier, not in another world, but in this.

Hence it was that the first chapter of Job taught him nothing but a lesson in politics. In a piece called "The Levee,” and still placed among the bagatelles, Franklin set forth his understanding of the strange scene, and asks what instruction is to be gathered from it. His answer is ready: "Trust not a single person with the government of your state. For if the Deity himself, being the monarch, may for a time give way to calumny, and suffer it to operate the destruction of the best of subjects, what mischief may you not expect from such

power in a mere man, though the best of men, from whom the truth is often industriously hidden, and to whom falsehood is often presented in its place by artful, interested, and malicious courtiers?"

Distasteful as the language of Scripture was to Franklin, he nevertheless wrote two pieces in close imitation. The first he called “A Parable Against Persecution," printed it in the same way Bibles are printed, and fastened it in his own copy at the end of Genesis as the fiftyfirst chapter of that book. His custom then was, on some evening when a host of friends were seated about him, to lead the talk to the subject of parables, bring out his Bible, read the pretended chapter of Genesis, and listen with delight while his guests one by one declared they had never heard the parable before, nor knew such a chapter of Genesis existed.

In this way Lord Kames saw it, and in 1774 reprinted the parable in his "Sketches of the History of Man." Thence it passed to Vaughan's edition of Franklin's works, and so to volume 50 of the Gentleman's Magazine, where a lively dispute soon took place over the question who wrote it. An admirer of Jeremy Taylor informed Mr. Urban that Franklin had taken the parable bodily from Taylor's "Polem

ical Discourses," where it could be found at the end of the twenty-second section of "The Liberty of Prophesying." This was true, and the curious began at once to ask where Taylor got it; for he headed the parable with the words, "I end with a story which I find in the Jews' Books." At last a writer in the Repository for May, 1788, announced that he had found the "Jews' Book," that it had been published at Amsterdam in 1651, had been translated by George Gentius, and that in the dedication was the parable, ascribed to the Persian poet Saadi. Lord Teignmouth now translated the version of Saadi, and sent it to Bishop Heber, who put it among the notes to his "Life of Jeremy Taylor." Franklin meanwhile was warmly defended in the Repository for June, 1788, and declared, in a letter to Mr. Vaughan, that the Scripture language and the two verses at the end were all he could claim as his own. But the discussion as to where he got it was still going on in the Gentleman's Magazine as late as 1791. In 1794 the Parable was printed at London in the form of a tract, and sold for a halfpenny.

The second parable is on brotherly love. Some Midian merchants passing by with camels bearing spices, myrrh, and iron-ware, Reuben buys an axe. There is none other in his father's

house, and Simeon, Levi, and Judah come in turn to borrow it. But Reuben will not lend, and the brothers are forced to send after the Ishmaelite merchants and buy each of them an axe for himself. Now it happens, as Reuben hews timber on the river-bank, his axe falls into the water. Unable to find it, he goes in turn to his brothers to borrow. Simeon refuses. Levi consents, but consents so grudgingly that Reuben will not borrow; whereupon Judah seeing his distress, hastens to him and offers the axe unasked.

Each of these pieces was much admired, and the fame of them involved Franklin in a work that signally failed. Sir Francis Dashwood was then busy abridging the Book of Common Prayer. Lord Le Despencer asked Franklin to help. He did so, wrote the preface, cut down the catechism, and paraphrased the Psalms. This new catechism consisted of two questions: What is your duty to God? and What is your duty to your neighbor? The new Psalms were what was left of the old ones when repetitions and imprecations had been taken out. Poetry had no charms for him. He seldom read any. He never wrote any. The most that can be said of his verses is, that for so matter-of-fact a man some of them are very good.

« AnteriorContinuar »