Pristine Grace

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A Riddle

by Gilbert Beebe

NEW VERNON, N. Y., March 1, 1811.

    WE have for many years been partially acquainted with the inmates of a house, whose history, if we were able to do jus­tice to the work, would be interesting, and perhaps profit­able to some portion of our readers. The house itself is fearfully and wonderfully made, and has stood in its present form a little more than forty years. The materials of which the house is made were originally very good, but now appear to be in rather a dilapidated and decaying state. It has been thought by good judges that there is contagion in the build­ing; and this conclusion has been confirmed, by the appearance of “spots of leprosy in the walls, like fretting sores. Now what we wish to relate, is in reference to the tenants of this house. And what think you of two families occupying one house? You know that unless they agree pretty well, they must live very uncomfortably together. Well, we know this to be the case; for although the house is inhabited by but two individuals, it frequently seems to contain, as it were, “the company of two armies.” We have known them to be engaged in such deadly strife, that without foreign in­terference they would certainly have destroyed each other.

    It will answer our present purpose, without calling names, to designate these fighting neighbors, the Old man and the New man; for the eldest tenant of the house has in reality had possession of the premises ever since the house was built; but the other took his residence in the same house, some years afterward; having the consent of the builder and owner of the house. On the occasion of the New man’s moving into the house, we shall never forget what a dreadful uproar took place. The Old man is not only old, but he is a strong man; and being armed, had kept his palace, and his goods were in safety, until that memorable struggle took place. No tongue can tell, nor pens describe, with what awful desperation that battle was fought. It was the most sanguine and dreadful conflict, between the most powerful disputants, and attended with the most thrilling and affecting circumstances that we ever witnessed. Incredible as our description of this scene may appear, we do assure our readers that the very heavens grew dark on that occasion! loud thunders shook the world, and vivid lightning’s played around! The voice of words were heard, until the reeling walls of the disputed house seemed ready to be dashed into a thousand pieces, like a potter’s vessel.

    The old man contended for the exclusive possession of the house, and set up the plea, that he had held a peaceable possession so long, it was his lawful property. Moreover, he found certain passages of the law, which he interpreted to mean, that no such tenant should be allowed to occupy any part of the premises; from ancient records he also showed that the house had been mortgaged to his king, whose name was Death; and by his will, he claimed the exclusive right to the house; but he was foiled by the Wonderful Counselor for the other, who proved beyond dispute, that the bond was canceled, and the property redeemed from all encumbrance, excepting that he, the old man, might, by the suff­rage of the proprietor, remain in the basement story for a short time. He also contended that he was able to defend his right, and that he would never go out alive. But, as the result of that struggle has abundantly proved, the old man was mistaken; for one, stronger than he, came, and the old man was bound, and his goods were spoiled. The victorious warrior, (for he was a man of war) who had made bare his arm in vanquishing this potent enemy, claimed the right to dispose of the premises as he pleased; and he assigned to the new man all the upper part of the house, to have and to hold from that date forth, during the pleasure of the land­lord, or as long as the house should stand. When the new man entered his mansion, how different was the scene! The conflict was over, the old man was in chains; and it was whispered that he was dead; and the new man made great reckoning on having the house completely purged, purified, set in order, made pleasant, peaceable and beautiful; but scarcely had the work of reform and improvement com­menced, when the new corner thought he could perceive signs of life in the carcass of the old vanquished foe; nor was he at all deceived in his apprehensions; for suddenly the old man revived, and in a most surly, insolent and quarrelsome manner, bid the new man leave the house. The new man trembled convulsively, at this unlooked for treatment— plead that he had been put in possession by the lawful owner of the Property; and that he had obtained liberty to hold possession of all the upper part of the house, as long as it should stand; and that when this earthly house should be dissolved, he bad a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. But the old man disputed his plea, and insinuated that he was laboring under a delusion, in regard to having been put into possession of the house, or any part of it; and declared that the new man had not been put into the possession, and that he could not in justice be. Finally the artful language of the old man was such that the new man began to fear exceedingly, that he was truly under some dreadful delusion. Under these impressions, he wept and prayed, and fasted, and labored, and struggled, for many days; until his Lord again appeared for his deliverance, and gave him a renewed evidence of his goodness and mercy. After this conflict was over, things went smoothly on for some time; but after certain days, the old man brought home with him some old comrades, (among whom was a very celebrated, and ardently pious Mr. Charity, D. D., and a few of his neighbors, Good Works, Carnal Mind, Law Righteousness, and one very shrewd old fellow, called Human Reason, A. M.) and insisted on entertaining them in the upper part of the house, as they were all used to high living. At first the new man objected; but seeing that the company were all very pious, and being fond of religious company, and fearing that he would be thought uncharitable, if he should reject them, he consented; and they all came in, and seemed to enjoy a merry time; indeed, the old man himself began to be very religious; and he and his guests soon found occasion to chide the new man for backwardness, inertness, a want of zeal and activity, &c.; and he, poor fellow, began to feel something of his leanness and barrenness; he confessed the justness of their censure, and begged them to aid him in an attempt at reformation; to this, they being of the benevolent order, readily consented, and forthwith began a course of lectures, in which they told him that he was entirely too tight laced in his religious principles; that he was trusting too much to grace; and that he did not lay a sufficient stress upon good works; they read off to him a long chapter, upon duty religion, duty faith, duty prayer, &c.; and urged that he must be up and doing—that he must use the means of grace. They told him, moreover, that thousands, by tight b&cing, had become sickly; had brought on consumption, and even death. It was the unanimous opinion of the gang, that New man must make brick without straw; and when he com­plained, they told him he was idle; and they applied the lash until his groans and sighs became indescribably dreadful; and it is our sincere opinion, that these thievish imps would have worked poor, distressed New man to death, if it had not been for an interposition of his Lord; for they had already got him to consent to change apartments with his fellow tenant, and he had moved down stairs, quite into the cellar. The new man had been persuaded to believe that for, and in consideration of his kindness in changing rooms with his neighbor, he would be exceedingly happy, and enjoy great peace of mind, &c. But to his mortification he found the room very dark, the light and warmth of the sun being shut out; and had only light enough to perceive that the room was dreadful filthy, and that it contained innumerable rep­tiles, serpents and scorpions. This exercise threw him into a cold sweat, and he was dreadfully tried in his mind, to ac­count for his troubles; he made some vain attempts to man, these serpents with carnal weapons; such as good resolutions, large quantities of formal prayer, and many other weapons of the same kind, that he found among the lumber of the old man—all to no effect; for he found himself only beating the air. In this dreary condition he remained, until the next visit of his Lord and Master, who came to his relief, opened the prison door, took his feet out of the stocks, set him in a large place, thrust his old man down into the nether apart­ment, and raised him, (the new man) again to the enjoyment of former light, life and liberty.

    We might continue our parable ad infinitum; for the old man and the new man cannot get along peaceably together; the new man having received an order from the court of the King’s bench, to crucify the old man with his comrades; and in his attempting to execute this sentence, they have had some awful combats; and the old fox has often played the possum, and made his antagonist think he was dead; but as soon as a favorable opportunity presented, he would revive; and in many instances would bring the other into subjection to the law of sin, that was written on the walls of the, house. The new man, in some of his struggles, has been heard to – cry out, O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? But we are credibly informed, that he has received an assurance from his Lord, that a few more struggles will end the strife—when the old crazy walls of the disputed territory shall be thrown down, and he shall then inhabit an incorruptible building, far from the noise and rage of the old man.

Reader, do you understand the riddle?

   Editorials of Gilbert Beebe
   Vol. 1 Pgs 658-662

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