“That Paul has ruined him,” said Amanda. “I would not be a bit surprised if he died a Papist yet.”
“Sure you would not let the Popish priest visit him, on any account?” said the tolerant parson.
“I fear pa would, for you know uncle Jacob left him this farm, and more than half what he possesses in money and stock. Come, tea is ready.”
Poor uncle Prying, as we have said already, was the senior brother of Ephraim and Reuben Prying, and was now about seventy-two years of age. During the last twenty years of his life he labored under a slight asthmatic affection, which lately increased in violence, and, joined with a disease of the liver, which physicians said he suffered from, now seriously endangered his life. Since he was eighteen years old, Mr. Jacob Prying never went inside a meeting-house or professed any religion; a conclusion which he partly was drove to by the hypocrisy of a certain minister in his neighborhood, who wanted to have Mr. Jacob married to a daughter of his, who, two days before the marriage, he found out, accidentally, had been seduced by an ex-senator in Boston. This piece of deception on the part of the religious teacher, and the treachery of the maid herself, so disgusted Jacob Prying, that he registered a vow in heaven that he never again would allow himself to become the victim of hypocrisy or of female dissimulation. The parsons, all round, because he was proof against their transparent baits, to fill their meeting-houses, cried him down as an infidel, whose heart was hardened, and who despised the Bible. Uncle Jacob never attempted to dispel the prejudices raised against him by the malice of despised dominies; but his heart refuted their lies, for it was open to every noble and humane influence, and, above all, undefiled from the corruption of the world. Hence, in his hour of sickness, in his hour of trial and need, the Almighty rewarded him for his natural good parts, and sent His angel to conduct him, by the simple means herein recorded, to the bosom of that holy religion, outside which there is nothing but bitterness and woe, and without which “it is impossible to please God.” Knowing the nature of the enemies he had to contend with, poor Mr. Jacob Prying was silent on the subject of his religious doubts till the advent of Paul to the farm. Like the ancient noble Roman, who, under the garb of folly, concealed his profound heroic wisdom, uncle Jacob was content to be called an infidel and unbeliever, so that he might preserve his heart undefiled, and ready for that precious pearl “of great price” which his heart sighed for, and which he was about now to receive; becoming, in his latter days, a further illustration of the Divine narrative that “God adds daily to the Church those who are to be saved.”