“I should wish to hear their creed,” replied I.
“Hear it then. Original sin commenced in heaven—when the angels rebelled against their God—not on earth.”
“I will grant that sin originated first in heaven.”
“Do you think that a great, a good God, ever created any being for its destruction and eternal misery, much less an angel? Did he not foresee their rebellion?”
“I grant it.”
“This world was not peopled with the image of God until after the fall of the angels: it had its living beings, its monsters perhaps, but not a race of men with eternal souls. But it was peopled, as we see it now is, to enable the legions of angels who fell to return to their former happy state—as a pilgrimage by which they might obtain their pardons, and resume their seats in heaven. Not a child is born, but the soul of some fallen cherub enters into the body to work out its salvation. Many do, many do not, and then they have their task to recommence anew; for the spirit once created is immortal, and cannot be destroyed; and the Almighty is all goodness, and would ever pardon.”
“Then you suppose there is no such thing as eternal punishment?”
“Eternal!—no. Punishment there is, but not eternal. When the legions of angels fell, some were not so perverse as others: they soon re-obtained their seats, even when, as children, having passed through the slight ordeal, they have been summoned back to heaven; but others who, from their infancy, show how bad were their natures, have many pilgrimages to perform before they can be purified. This is, in itself, a punishment. What other punishment they incur between their pilgrimages we know not; but this is certain, that no one was created to be punished eternally.”
“But all this is but assertion,” replied I; “where are your proofs?”
“In the Bible; some day or other I will show them to you; but now we are at the camp, and I am anxious to embrace Nattee.”
I thought for some time upon this singular creed; one, in itself, not militating against religion, but at the same time I could not call to mind any passages by which it could be supported. Still the idea was beautiful, and I dwelt upon it with pleasure. I have before observed, and indeed the reader must have gathered from my narative, that Melchior was no common personage. Every day did I become more partial to him, and more pleased with our erratic life. What scruples I had at first, gradually wore away; the time passed quickly, and although I would occasionally call to mind the original object of my setting forth, I would satisfy myself by the reflection, that there was yet sufficient time. Little Fleta was now my constant companion when in the camp, and I amused myself with teaching her to write and read.
“Japhet,” said Timothy to me one day as we were cutting hazel broach wood in the forest, “I don’t see that you get on very fast in your search after your father.”