There is a story told in old English history, which has some bearing on the point, and may be within the recollection of some of my readers. When the Saxon king, king Edwin had gathered together his thanes and aldermen, to discuss the momentous question whether they should leave the gods of their fathers, and listen to the new teaching of Paullinus the Christian missionary bishop, one of the king’s thanes arose and made this remarkable speech:—

“Truly the life of a man in this world, compared with that life whereof we wot, is on this wise. It is as when thou O King, art sitting at supper with thine Aldermen and Thanes in the time of winter, when the hearth is lighted in the midst and the hall is warm, but without the rains and the snow, are falling, and the winds are howling: then cometh a sparrow and flieth through the house, she cometh in by one door, and goeth out by another. Whiles she is in the house, she feeleth not the storm of winter, but yet, when a little moment of rest is passed, she fleeth again into the storm, and passeth away from our eyes. So it is with the life of man: it is but for a 342moment; what goeth afore it and what cometh after it, wot we not at all. Wherefore if these strangers can tell us aught, that we may know whence man cometh, and whither he goeth, let us hearken to them and follow their law.” 1