A disenchanted collegian-preacher.
Previous to my arrival at this ancient seat of learning, founded and endowed for the perpetuation and propagation of the doctrines of our denomination, I had never entertained the faintest shadow of doubt as to the infallibility of our creed; but now all faith in it vanished like the baseless fabric of a dream. Here at the fountain head of wisdom, from which streams were supposed to flow for the healing of the nations, my faith in the beliefs of my ancestors fled, nevermore to return; here, where lived the great high priests of the sect, I had expected to find the whole air roseate with divine love and grace, all souls lifted to sublime heights on the breath of unceasing prayer and praise.
The disenchantment was appalling; my brothers in Christ, the grave and reverend professors, were cold as icebergs, evidently caring nothing for the souls or bodies of their Christian or pagan students; the preacher at the college church was an ecclesiastical icicle, who, in his manner at least, continually cried: “Procul, procul, oh, Profani!”
The prayer meetings were dead and formal, no enthusiasm; it was like being in a spiritual refrigerator—with perhaps one exception, when, through the cracks in the floor from the room of a frugal freshman who boarded himself, came the overwhelming stench of cooking onions, and a wag brother who was quoting scripture to the Lord in prayer, suddenly opened his eyes, and sniffing the unctuous odors, shouted: “Brethren, let us now sing ‘From whence doth this onion (union) arise?’” and roars of laughter would put an end to the solemn farce.
Within the dismal college dormitories were herded a few hundred youths, entirely free from all moral and social restraints, abandoned to all orgies into which many characters in the formative state are most likely to drift. I frequently saw a professing Christian teacher torture with biting sarcasm his brother church-member, who had done his best, though he failed to grasp some intricate mathematical problem, until the poor fellow abandoned the college in despair.
Is it strange that I and many others lost all faith in a religion that brought forth such bitter fruit? When I strayed from the lifeless dulness of the college church into the light and warmth of the “liberal sanctuary,” where the old man eloquently discoursed of the ascent instead of the descent of man, and pictured the sublime development of the race by heroic endeavor from the animal to the archangel; when this good man welcomed us warmly as brothers to his hearth and home and loaned me his silken surplice to cover my seedy clothes when I delivered my orations at the class exhibitions, is it strange that I embrace his Darwinian theory instead of the mythological story of the fall of man tempted by a snake in the garden of Eden?