Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

3. Chapter III (continued)

'Alas!' answered Apaecides, sadly, 'thou seest before thee a wretched and distracted man! From my childhood upward I have idolized the dreams of virtue! I have envied the holiness of men who, in caves and lonely temples, have been admitted to the companionship of beings above the world; my days have been consumed with feverish and vague desires; my nights with mocking but solemn visions. Seduced by the mystic prophecies of an impostor, I have indued these robes;--my nature (I confess it to thee frankly)--my nature has revolted at what I have seen and been doomed to share in! Searching after truth, I have become but the minister of falsehoods. On the evening in which we last met, I was buoyed by hopes created by that same impostor, whom I ought already to have better known. I have--no matter--no matter! suffice it, I have added perjury and sin to rashness and to sorrow. The veil is now rent for ever from my eyes; I behold a villain where I obeyed a demigod; the earth darkens in my sight; I am in the deepest abyss of gloom; I know not if there be gods above; if we are the things of chance; if beyond the bounded and melancholy present there is annihilation or an hereafter--tell me, then, thy faith; solve me these doubts, if thou hast indeed the power!'

'I do not marvel,' answered the Nazarene, 'that thou hast thus erred, or that thou art thus sceptic. Eighty years ago there was no assurance to man of God, or of a certain and definite future beyond the grave. New laws are declared to him who has ears--a heaven, a true Olympus, is revealed to him who has eyes--heed then, and listen.'

And with all the earnestness of a man believing ardently himself, and zealous to convert, the Nazarene poured forth to Apaecides the assurances of Scriptural promise. He spoke first of the sufferings and miracles of Christ--he wept as he spoke: he turned next to the glories of the Saviour's Ascension--to the clear predictions of Revelation. He described that pure and unsensual heaven destined to the virtuous--those fires and torments that were the doom of guilt.

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