Monday, January 27, 2014

The World of Chance

The following is a favorite story to my family. It is from Sander's Fifth Union Reader which was published in the mid-late 1800's.  This story was published around the time that Darwin's Origin of Species was popularized. It considers the fact that a world of order is a gift from a kind and omniscient Creator.  

      I'm posting this after learning of a recent poll that stated that 1/3 of Americans reject evolution outright.  The poll did not give options for the varied beliefs people have for evolution, but shows that, despite a strong propaganda campaign by government controlled schools to show only the position of naturalism, many people have not yet bought into the religion of naturalism.  Indeed, the world is filled with the testimony of God because "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20

The World of Chance

by John Todd.

      At the foot of a noble mountain in Asia stood a beautiful cottage. Around it were walks, and shades, and fruits, such as were nowhere else to be found. The sun shone upon no spot more beautiful or luxuriant. It was the home of Hafed, the aged and prosperous. He reared the cottage; he adorned the spot; and here, for more than fourscore years, he had lived and studied.

      During all this time, the sun had never forgotten to visit him daily; the harvest had never failed, the pestilence had never destroyed, and the mountain stream had never dried up. The wife of his youth still lived to cheer him; and his son and daughter were such as were not to be found in all that province.

      But who can insure earthly happiness? In one short week, Hafed was stripped of all his joys. His wife took cold, and a quick fever followed; and Hafed saw that she must die. His son and daughter both returned from the burial of their mother, fatigued and sick. The nurse gave them, as she thought, a simple medicine. In a few hours, it was found to be poison. Hafed saw that they must die; for the laws of nature are fixed, and poison kills.

      He buried them in one wide, deep grave; and it seemed as if in that grave he buried his reason and religion. He tore his gray hair; he cursed the light of day, and wished the moon turned into blood. He arraigned the wisdom of God in His government over this world, declaring that the laws which He had established were all wrong, governed by Chance, or, at least, that, at his death, he might go to a world where there was no God to fix unalterable laws.

      In the center of Hafed’s garden stood a beautiful palm-tree. Under this Hafed was sitting, the second evening after he has closed the grave over his children. Before him lay the beautiful country, and above him the glorious heavens, and the bright moon just pushing up her modest face. But Hafed looked upon all this, and grief swelled in his throat; his tongue murmured; his heart was full of blasphemous thoughts of God.

      As the night deepened, Hafed, as he thought, fell asleep with a heavy heart. When he supposed he awoke, it was in a new spot. All around him was new. As he stood wondering where he was, he saw a creature approach him, which appeared like a baboon; but, on its coming nearer, he saw that it was a creature somewhat resembling a man, but every way ill-shaped and monstrous.

      He came up, and walked around Hafed, as if he were a superior being, exclaiming, -- “Beautiful, beautiful creature!” “Shame, shame on thee!” said Hafed; “dost thou treat a stranger thus with insults? Leave off thy jests, and tell me where I am, and how I came here!” “I do not know how you came here; but here you are, in our world, which we call Chance World, because every thing happen here by chance.”

      “Ah! Is it so? This must be delightful! This is just the world for me. Oh, had I always lived here, my beautiful children would not have died under a foolish and inexorable law! Come, show me this world; for I long to see it. But have ye really no God, nor any one to make laws and govern you as he sees fit?”

      “I do not know what you mean be the word God. We have nothing of the kind here, -- nothing but chance. But go with me, and you will understand all about it. “ As they proceeded, Hafed noticed that every thing looked queer and odd. Some of the grass was green, some red, some white, some new, and some dying; some grew with the top downward; all kinds were mingled together; and; on the whole, the sight was very painful.

      He stopped to examine an orchard: here Chance had been at work. On a fine-looking apple-tree he saw no fruit but large, coarse cucumbers. A small peach-tree was breaking down under its load of gourds. Some of the trees were growing with their tops downward, and the roots branching out into the air. Here and there were great holes dug, by which somebody had tried to get down twenty or thirty feet, in order to get the fruit.

      The guide told Hafed that there was no certainty about these trees, and that you could never tell what fruit a tree would happen to bear. The tree which this year bears cucumbers, may bear potatoes next year, and perhaps you would have to dig twenty feet for every potato you obtained.

       They soon met another of the “chance men.” His legs were very unequal in length: one had no knee, and the other no ankle. His ears were set upon his shoulders, and around his head was a thick, black bandage. He came groping his way, and Hafed asked him how long since he had lost his sight.

      “I have not lost it,” said he; “but when I was born, my eyeballs happened to turn in instead of out; and the back parts, being outward, are very painful in the light, and so I put on a covering. Yet I am as well off as others. My brother has one good eye on the top of his head; but it look directly upward, and the sun almost puts it out.”

      They stopped to look at some “chance cattle” in a yard. Some had but three legs; some were covered with wool, under which they were sweltering in a climate always tropical. Some were half horse and half ox. Cows had young camels following them instead of calves. Young elephants were there with flocks of sheep, horses with claws like a lion, and geese clamping round the yard with hoofs like horses. It was all a work of Chance.

      “This,” said the guide, “is as choice collection of cattle. You never saw the like before.” “That is true-- truth itself,” cried Hafed. “Ah! But the owner has been at great pains and expense to collect them. I do not believe there is another such collection anywhere in all this ‘Chance World.’” “I hope not,” said Hafed.
     Just as they were leaving the premises, the owner came out to admire, and show, and talk over his treasures. He wanted to gaze at Hafed; but his head happened to be near the ground, between his feet, so that he had to mount upon a wall before he could get a fair view of the stranger. “Do not think I am a happy man,” said he, “in having so many and such perfect animals. Atlas! Even in the perfect and happy world there are drawbacks. That fine-looking cow yonder happens to give nothing but warm water, instead of milk; and her calf, poor thing! Died before it was a week old. 

    “Some of them are stone blind, some can not live in the light, and few of them can hear. No two of them eat the same food, and it is a great labor to take care of them. I sometimes feel as if I would almost as lief be a poor man.” “I think I should rather,” said Hafed.

      While they were talking, in an instant they were in midnight darkness. The sun was gone, and Hafed could not, for some time, see his guide. “What has happened? said he. “Oh, nothing uncommon,” said the guide! “The sun happened to go down now. There is no regular time for him to shine; but he goes and comes just as it happens, and leaves as suddenly, as you see.”

      “As I don’t see,” said Hafed: “but I hope he will come back at the appointed time, at any rate.” “That, sir, will be just as it happens. Sometimes he is gone for months, and sometimes for weeks, and sometimes only for a few minutes, just as it happens. We may not see him again for months, but perhaps he will come soon.”

      As the guide was proceeding, to the inexpressible joy of all, the sun at once broke out. The light was so sudden, that Hafed at first thought he must be struck with lightning, and actually put his hands to his eyes to see if they were safe. He then clapped his hands to his eyes till he could gradually bear the light. There was a splendor about the sun, which he had never before seen; and it was intolerably hot. The air seemed like a furnace.

      “Ah,” said the owner of the cattle, “we must now scorch for it! My poor wool ox must die at once! Bad luck, bad luck to us! The sun has come back nearer than he was before. But we hope he will happen to go away again soon, and then happen to come back farther off the next time.”

      The sun was now pouring down his heat so intensely, that they were glad to go into the house for shelter, -- a miserable-looking place indeed. Hafed could not but compare it with his own beautiful cottage. Some timbers were rotten; for the tree was not, as it happened, the same in all its parts. Some of the boards happened to be like paper, and the nails torn out; and these were loose and coming off.

      They invited Hafed to eat. On sitting down at the table, he noticed that each one had a different kind of food, and that no two could eat out of the same dish. He was told that it so happened, that the food which one could eat, was poison to another; and what was agreeable to one, was nauseating to another.

      “I suppose that to be coffee,” said Hafed, “and I will thank you for a cup.” It was handed him. He had been troubled with the toothache for some hours; and how did he quail, when, on filling his mouth, he found it was ice, in little pieces about as large as pigion-shot!

      “Do you call ice-water coffee here?” said Hafed, pressing his hand upon his cheek, while his tooth was dancing with pain. “That is just as it happens. We put water over the fire, and sometimes it heats it, and sometimes it freezes it. It is all chance at work.”

      Hafed rose from the table in anguish of spirit. He remembered the world where he had lived, and all that was past. He had desired to live in a world where there was no God, where all was governed by chance. Here he was, and here he must live.

      He threw himself on a bed, and recalled the past, -- the beautiful world where he had once lived; his ingratitude; his murmurings against the wisdom and goodness of God. He wept like infancy. He would have prayed, and even began a prayer; but then he recollected that there was no God here; nothing to direct events; nothing but chance. He shed many and bitter tears of repentance. At last he wept himself to sleep.

      When Hafed again awoke, he was sitting under his palm-tree in his own beautiful garden. It was morning. At the appointed moment, the glorious sun rose up in the east; the fields were all green and fresh; the trees were all right end upward, and covered with blossoms; and the songsters were uttering their morning songs.

      Hafed arose, recalled that ugly dream, and then wept for joy. Was he again in a world where Chance does not reign? He looked up, and then turned to the God of heaven, the God of laws and of order, and gave Him the glory, and confessed that His ways, to us unsearchable, are full of wisdom. He was a new man ever afterward; nothing gave him greater cause of gratitude, as he daily knelt in prayer, than the fact that he lived in a world where God ruled, and ruled by laws fixed, wise, and merciful.

The End.
Source: Sander's Fifth Union Reader
Drawings are by my sister, Esther.

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