Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

Unprofessional Sermons         213

seriously. I dropped saying mine suddenly once for all with-
out malice prepense, on the night of the 2Qth of September,
1859, when I went on board the Roman Emperor to sail for
New Zealand. I had said them the night before and doubted
not that I was always going to say them as I always had done
hitherto. That night, I suppose, the sense'of change was so
great that it shook them quietly off. I was not then a sceptic ;
I had got as far as disbelief in infant baptism but no further.
I felt no compunction of conscience, however, about leaving
off my morning and evening prayers—simply I could no
longer say them,

Lead us not into temptation (Matt. vi. 13).

For example; I am crossing from Calais to Dover and
there is a well-known popular preacher on board, say Arch-
deacon Farrar.

I have my camera in my hand and though the sea is rough
the sun is brilliant. I see the archdeacon come on board at
Calais and seat himself upon the upper deck, looking as
though he had just stepped out of a band-box. Can I be
expected to resist the temptation of snapping him ? Suppose
that in the train for an hour before reaching Calais I had said
any number of times, " Lead us not into temptation/* is it
likely that the archdeacon would have been made to take
some other boat or to stay in Calais, or that I myself, by
being delayed on my homeward journey, should have been
led into some other temptation, though perhaps smaller ?
Had I not better snap him and have done with it ? Is there
enough chance of good result to make it worth while to try
the experiment ? The general consensus of opinion is that
there is not.

And as for praying for strength to resist temptation-
granted that if, when I saw the archdeacon in the band-box
stage, I had immediately prayed for strength I might have
been enabled to put the evil thing from me for a time, how
long would this have been likely to last when I saw his face
grow saintlier and saintlier ? I am an excellent sailor myself,
but he is not, and when I see him there, his eyes closed and
his head thrown back, like a sleeping St. Joseph in a shovel
hat, with a basin beside him, can I expect to be saved from
snapping him by such a formula as " Deliver us from evil " ?