Billeder på siden

governor resided, the eating of the famished mariners continued to be enormous. 'Every house was open to us; and though it was but an hour after we had dined, they always spread a table, thinking we could never eat enough after what we had suffered, and we were much of the same opinion.' Mr Byron made friends with the governor's cook, and so carried his pockets always full to his apartment, there to feed at leisure. They were in all four in number now; namely, Captain Cheap, Messrs Byron, Hamilton, and Campbell. From Chaco, they were taken to the larger town of Castro, and remained there for some months in the condition of prisoners at large, poorly clad, but decently lodged and well fed. On the ad of January 1743, their case having become known to the authorities of Chili, they were put on board a ship to be conveyed to the city of St Jago. Here they remained two years as prisoners, but not in confinement. Fortunately for them, a Scotch physician, who bore the name of Don Patricio Ged, entreated the governor to allow the captives to stay with him; and for two years this generous man maintained them like brothers, nearly at his own expense. In December following, Captain Cheap and Messrs Byron and Hamilton were put on board a French vessel, to be conveyed to Europe: Mr Campbell, having become a Catholic, remained in Chili. They reached France safely, and after some detention there, were permitted to go to Britain by an order from Spain. Their friends were much surprised to see them, having long given them up for lost. Their term of absence exceeded five years.

The six men who cruelly made off with the barge, appear never to have been heard of again, and perished, doubtless, on the coast. The fate of the more numerous body who went off to the south in the long-boat, is known from the narrative of John Bulkely, gunner, one of the survivors. This band actually succeeded in rounding South America through the Strait of Magellan, and reached the Portuguese territory of Rio Janeiro, after hardships equal to those of the other party, and which reduced their number from nearly eighty to thirty. They reached the Rio Grande in January 1742. All of the thirty, however, probably did not see Britain. On coming to the Portuguese colony, they found food, friends, and countrymen, and separated from one another, Bulkely and two others reached England on the Ist of January 1743.

The members of this expedition went out with the hope of gathering gold at will among the Spanish colonies. What a different fate befell the unhappy crew of the Wager!


[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
[ocr errors]

SVF all the religious sects which have originated in

Christendom, the most singular in its birth, its fortunes,

and its tenets is undoubtedly “The Church of Jesus JR Christ of Latter-day Saints'--the name by which the o s Mormon community designates itself. Its founder was a man in whose character, at no period of his career, can we discern the customary lineaments of a saint, a reformer, or even a fanatic; and yet it is certain that he gathered round him a body of zealous and devoted followers, the majority of whom implicitly accepted him as a person divinely inspired and commissioned to regenerate and reconstruct human society. That he was illiterate, and yet achieved so much, is not the remarkable thing about him. Men almost, if not altogether, as illiterate as he have created and perpetuated sects; nor is it the mere fact that before he acquired notoriety as a prophet,

No. 46.

he was suspected of sheep-stealing and other evil practices—for moral contradictions as great, if not as grotesque as this, could be found in the history of other saints ;' still less is it the utterly unintellectual, and in some parts unintelligible rubbish which constitutes Mormon theology and metaphysics—for history teaches us. that there is nothing so foolish that some people will not believe it. The mystery or enigma of his success lies here—that retaining to the last an essentially low, coarse, unspiritual mind, and a language tainted not only by vulgarities of sentiment, but by positive impurities of phrase, he nevertheless swayed his followers like a Wesley, and, as Captain Burton remarks, is now spoken of by them with a respectful reverential sotto voce, as Christians name the founder of their faith. What we propose to do in the following pages is to narrate the rise and progress of this extraordinary sect, to explain its tenets, and as far as possible to account for its success.

Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was the son of a farmer, also called Joseph Smith, or more generally, ‘Old Father Smith, and of Lucy Mark, and was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, United States, on the 23d of December 1805. When he had reached the age of ten, his parents removed to Palmyra, in the state of New York, and four years later, to the town of Manchester, about six miles off. The reputation of the family (according to the testimony of neighbours) was of the worst kind; we are told that they avoided honest labour, were intemperate and untruthful, addicted to sheep-stealing, digging för hidden treasures, &c.; but these accusations, though frequently made at a later period, when the new sect was visibly establishing itself in the land, were never definitely proved ; and remembering the extreme recklessness of statement prevalent in America, impartial judges will hesitate to allow their validity. There is indeed some ground for supposing that they were not wholly false. Smith himself, when assailed for his antecedents, used to reply, that he had never done anything so bad as was reported of King David, whom his orthodox enemies could not consistently deny to have been a 'man after God's own heart;' and his successor in the prophethood, Brigham Young, seems to acknowledge a certain degree of truth in the hostile charges, when he says: "The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter; bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else, I do not care.' Perhaps it would not be far from the fact to suppose that Smith's early life had been generally careless, and sometimes immoral, even if we look with suspicion upon the testimony 'under oath' of 'upwards of sixty of the most respectable citizens of Wayne Co.', who declared the prophet's family to be 'false, immoral, and fraudulent,' and Joseph to be the worst of the whole. That such a man could be the subject of religious impressions may appear strange to those who have never studied the mysterious vagaries of human nature; but all who are aware that there is no necessary connection between religious emotions and moral habits, will not be staggered when they learn that from his boyhood a rude and sensual religiosity was mixed up with his more carnal conduct, and that as early as the age of thirteen, he was 'powerfully awakened by the preaching of Mr Lane, an earnest Methodist minister. There is the most satisfactory evidence-that of his enemies to shew that from an early period he was regarded as a visionary and a fanatic. This fact is of the utmost importance, as affording a clue to his real character, and an explanation of that otherwise unaccountable tenacity of purpose and moral heroism which he displayed in the midst of fierce persecution. A mere impostor—that is, a person who did not in some sense or other partly believe in his own mission, but who, on the contrary, felt that he was simply the liar and cheat that people called him-would have broken down under such a tempest of opposition and hate as Smith's preaching excited.

Mr Orson Pratt, an eminent Mormon apostle, has furnished us with a record of some of those 'visions' vouchsafed to Smith from time to time. It is extremely difficult for an outsider to discuss them in a rational manner. Although intrinsically absurd and theatrical, we seem to discern in the tone and accessory circumstances a certain strong, morbid susceptibility to religious impressions. How far persons in this condition are capable of speaking the truth, to what extent they are inwardly tempted to discolour, or even fabricate details in their narratives concerning themselves, is a moot-point with psychologists. With this hint to point criticism, we may proceed. According to Pratt, when Smith 'was about fourteen or fifteen years of age, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence. It was a period of hot revivalism in Western New York, and he went about from one religious denomination to another, but could find nothing satisfactory anywhere-nothing but a great clash in religious sentiment. Then he began to retire to a secret place in a grove, a short distance from his father's house, and there occupy himself for many hours in prayer and meditation. Once, when so engaged, he saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above, which at first seemed to be at a considerable distance ;' but as he continued praying, 'the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him, and as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness and magnitude, so that by the time it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness around was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. The account goes on to say that the light 'continued descending slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and immediately his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded, and he was inwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled

each other in their features and likeness. These wondrous beings informed him that his sins were forgiven ; and they furthermore disclosed to him that all the existing religious denominations were "believing in incorrect doctrines ;' and that, consequently, none of them was acknowledged of God as His church and kingdom.' He was expressly forbidden to attach himself to any of them; and received a promise that in due time 'the true doctrine, the fulness of the Gospel, should be graciously revealed to him ; 'after which the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace indescribable.'

The narrative proceeds with a curious Old Testament frankness to tell how Smith, being still young, became 'entangled in the vanities of the world,' and for a while demeaned himself so like a vessel of dishonour' as to be rendered temporarily unfit for seeing visions. But after due penitence, the miraculous light reappeared on the 21st of September 1823, and it seemed as though the house was filled with consuming fire. In another moment a personage' stood before him, with a countenance like lightning,' and visible to the extremities of the body. The apparition of this mysterious stranger restored Smith to his former state of indescribable serenity. He was now informed that he stood in the presence of the angel Moroni, who had been sent forth 'to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard ; and also to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel concerning their posterity was at hand to be fulfilled ; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence ; that the time was at hand for the gospel in its fulness to be preached in power unto all nations, that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness for the millennial reign of universal peace and joy.' Then followed the inevitable announcement that Smith was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation. A historic basis for the new 'dispensation' to rest on was finally revealed by Moroni. He explained that the Indian tribes were a remnant of Israel; that when they originally emigrated to America they were a pious and enlightened people, enjoying the peculiar favour and blessing of God; that prophets and inspired writers had been appointed to keep a sacred history of events happening among them; that this history was handed down for many generations, till at length the people fell into great wickedness, and afterwards the records were hidden, 'to preserve them from the hands of the wicked,' who were seeking to destroy them; that these records contained 'many sacred revelations pertaining to the gospel of the kingdom, as well as prophecies relating to the great events of the last days,' and that Smith, if he proved faithful, would be divinely commissioned to restore them to the world.

« ForrigeFortsæt »