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THOUGHTS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MANNERS OF THE GREAT TO GENERAL SOCIETY.

YOU ARE THE MAKERS OF MANNE [...] Shakespeare.

FOURTH EDITION.

PHILADELPHIA: PRINTED FOR THOMAS DOBSON, AT THE STONE HOUSE, IN SECOND STREET.

M DCC LXXXVIII.

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THOUGHTS ON THE MANNERS OF THE GREAT.

TO a large and honourable class of the community, to persons considerable in reputation, important by their condition in life, and commendable for the decency of their general conduct, these slight hints are respectfully addressed. They are not intended as a satire upon vice, or a ridicule upon folly, being written neither for the foolish nor the vicious. The subject is too serious for ridicule; and those to whom it is addressed are too respectable for satire. It is recommended to the consideration of those who, filling the higher ranks in life, are naturally regarded as patterns, by which [Page 4] the manners of the rest of the world are to be fashioned.

The mass of mankind, in most places, and in most conditions of life, is perhaps chiefly composed of what may be termed good kind of people; for persons of very flagitious wickedness are almost as rare as those of very eminent piety: to the latter of these, admonition were impertinent; to the for­mer it were superfluous. These remarks, therefore, are principally written with a view to those persons of rank and fortune who live within the restraints of moral ob­ligation, and acknowledge the truth of the Christian religion: and who, if in certain instances they allow themselves in practices not compatible with a strict profession of Christianity, seem to do it rather from ha­bit and want of reflection, than either from disbelief of its doctrines, or contempt of its precepts.

Inconsideration, Fashion, and the World, [Page 5] are three confederates against Virtue, with whom even good kind of people often con­trive to live on excellent terms; and the fair reputation which may be obtained by a complaisant conformity to the prevailing practice, and by mere decorum of manners, without a strict attention to religious prin­ciple, is a constant source of danger to the rich and great. There is something almost irresistibly seducing in the contagion of ge­neral example: hence the necessity of that vigilance, which it is the business of Chris­tianity to quicken by incessant admonition, and of the world, to lay asleep by the per­petual opiates of ease and pleasure.

A fair reputation is one of the most lau­dable objects of human ambition; yet even this really valuable blessing is sometimes converted into a snare, by inducing a trea­cherous security as soon as it is obtained. A fatal indolence is apt to creep in upon the soul when it has once acquired the good [Page 6] opinion of mankind, if the acquisition of that good opinion was the ultimate end of its endeavours. Pursuit is at an end when the object is in possession; for he is not likely to "press forward" who thinks he has already "attained."—The love of worldly reputation, and the desire of God's favour, have this specific difference, that in the latter, the possession always augments the desire; and the spiritual mind accounts nothing done while any thing remains un­done.

But after all, a fair fame, and the support of numbers, is obviously a deceitful depen­dence; for as every individual must die for himself, and answer for himself, both these imaginary resources will fail, just at the mo­ment when they could have been of any use. A good reputation, even without internal pi­ety, would be worth obtaining, if the tribu­nal of heaven were fashioned after the manner of human courts of judicature. If at the [Page 7] general judgment we were to be tried by a jury of our fellow mortals, it would be but common prudence to secure their favour at any price. But it can stand us in little stead in the great day of decision, as it is the consummation of infinite goodness, not to abandon us to the mercy of each other's sentence; but to reserve us for his final judgment who knows every motive of eve­ry action; who will make strict inquisiti­on into sincerity of heart, and uprightness of intention; in whose eyes an ineffectual prayer, or a powerless wish, will outweigh the most splendid profession, or the most dazzling action.

We cannot but rejoice in every degree of human virtue which operates favourably on society, whatever be the motive, or whoever be the actor; and we should glad­ly commend every degree of goodness, tho' it be not squared by our own rules and no­tions. Even the good actions of such per­sons [Page 8] as are too much actuated by a regard to appearances, are not without their be­neficial effects. The righteousness of those who occupy this middle region of morality certainly exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees; for they are not on­ly exact in ceremonials, but in many re­spects fulfil the weightier matters of law and conscience. Like Herod, they often "hear gladly, and do many things."—Yet I am afraid I shall be thought severe in remarking that, in general, those cha­racters in the New Testament, of whose future condition no very comfortable hope is given, seem to have been taken, not from the profligate, the abandoned, and the dishonourable; but from that decent class commonly described by the term of good sort of people; that mixed kind of cha­racter in which virtue appears, if it does not predominate. The young Ruler was certainly one of the first of this order; and [Page 9] yet we are left in dark uncertainly, as to his final allotment. The rich man who built him barns and storehouses, and only proposed to himself the full enjoyment of that fortune, which, perhaps, he had very fairly obtained, might have been, for all that appears to the contrary, a very good sort of man: at least, if we may judge of him by multitudes who live precisely for the same purposes, and yet enjoy a good degree of credit, and are rather considered as objects of admiration than of censure.

But the most alarming instance is that of the splendid, and not illiberal Epicure, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. He com­mitted no enormities that have been trans­mitted to us; for that he dined well, and dressed well, could hardly incur the bitter penalty of eternal misery. That his ex­pences were suitable to his station, and his splendour proportioned to his opulence, [Page 10] does not exhibit any objection to his cha­racter. Nor does he appear to have refu­sed the crumbs which Lazarus solicited: on the contrary, it is probable that the re­putation of his bounty drew the needy pe­titioner to his gate. Here is magnificence which is uncensurable, and here is bounty which is meritorious. And yet this man, on an authority which we are not permit­ted to question, is represented, in a future state, as lifting up his eyes, being in torments. His punishment seems to have been the consequence of an irreligious, worldly spi­rit, a heart corrupted by the softnesses and delights of life. It was not because he was rich, but because he trusted in riches; it was not that he was uncharitable, but that his charity wanted the principle which alone could sanctify it. His views termi­nated here; this world's good, and this world's applause, were the motives and the end of his actions. He forgot God; he [Page 11] was destitute of piety; and the absence of this great and first principle of human ac­tions, rendered his shin [...]ng deeds, however they might be admired among men, of no value in the sight of God.

There is no error more common, or more dangerous, than that an unrestrained indulgence of appetite is generally attended with a liberal, humane, and merciful tem­per. Nor is there any opinion more false and more fatal, or which demands to be more steadily controverted, than that liber­tinism and good-nature are natural and ne­cessary associates. For after all that cor­rupt poets, and more corrupt philosophers, have told us of the blandishments of plea­sure, and of its tendency to soften the tem­per, and humanize the affections, it is cer­tain, that nothing hardens the heart like excessive and unbounded luxury; and he who refuses the sweetest gratifications to his own voluptuousness, will generally be sound [Page 12] the least susceptible of tenderness for the wants of others. The cruelties at Rome bore an exact prop [...]rtion to the dissolute­ness at Capreae. And it is not less notori­ous, that the Imperial fiddler became more barbarous, as he grew more profligate.—Prosperity, says the Arabian proverb, fills the heart till it makes it hard: and the most dangerous pits and snares for human virtue are those, which are so covered over with the flowers of prosperous fortune, that it requires a cautious foot, and a vigilant eye, to escape them.

Even Ananias and Sapphira were, I doubt not, well esteemed in society; for it was enough to establish a very considerable re­putation to sell even part of their possessions for religious purposes: but what an alarm does it sound to hypocrisy, that, instead of be­ing rewarded for what they brought, they were punished for what they kept back! And it is to be feared, that this deceitful pair are [Page 13] not the only one, upon whom a good action, without a pure intention, has drawn down a righteous retribut [...]

For though outwa [...] actions are the su­rest, and to human eyes the only evidences of sincerity, yet Christianity is a religion of motives and principles. The Gospel is continually referring to the heart, as the source of good; it is to the poor in spirit, to the pure in heart, that the divine bles­sing is annexed. A man may correct many improper practices, and refrain from many immoral actions, from merely human mo­tives; but, though this partial amendment is not without its uses, yet this is only at­tacking symptoms, and neglecting the mor­tal disease. But to subdue a worldly tem­per, to control irregular desires, and to have a clean heart, is to extinguish the soul, and spirit, and essence of sin. Totally to ac­complish this, is, perhaps, beyond the nar­row limits of human perfection; but to [Page 14] attempt it (with an humble reliance on su­perior aid) is so far from being an extra­vagant or romanti [...] [...]ght of virtue, that it is but the common duty of every ordinary Christian. And this perfection is not the less real, because it is a point which seems constantly to recede from our approaches. Our highest attainments, instead of bringing us "to the mark," only teach us to remove the mark to a greater distance, by giving us more humbling views of ourselves, and more exalted conceptions of the state which we are labouring after. Though the pro­gress towards perfection may be perpetual in this world, the actual attainment is re­served for a better. And this restless desire of a happiness which we cannot reach, and this lively idea of a perfection which we can­not attain, are among the many arguments for a future state, which seem to come lit­tle short of absolute demonstration.

But I must remember, that this is not [Page 15] a sermon, but a mere superficial essay. I am neither an old man a clergyman, nor a methodist, so that it is at least possible that I may be neither actuated by moroseness, self interest, nor enthusiasm. I live much in the world, and have as much satisfaction in its lawful pleasures, and permitted in­dulgencies, as other men. I endeavour to cultivate the greatest candour for the opini­ons, and affection for the persons of all my fellow creatures. I am charmed with hu­manity, generosity, and integrity, even in worldly men. But one virtue must not in­trench upon another. Charity must not supplant faith. If a man be generous, good-natured, and humane, it is impossible not to feel for him the tenderness of a bro­ther; but if, at the same time, he be irre­ligious, intemperate, or profane, who shall dare to say he is in a safe state? Good hu­mour, and generous sentiments, will al­ways make a man a pleasant acquaintance; [Page 16] but who shall lower the doctrines of the Gospel, to accommodate them to the con­duct of men? Who shall bend a strait rule, to favour a crooked practice? Who shall controvert that authority which has said, that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord?

May I venture to be a little paradoxical; and while so many grave persons are des­canting on the mischiefs of vice, may I be permitted to say a word on the mischiefs of virtue; or, rather, of that shining coun­terfeit, which while it wants the specific gra­vity, has much of the brightness of sterling worth? Never, perhaps, did any age pro­duce more beautiful declamations in praise of virtue than the present; never were more polished periods rounded in honour of hu­manity. An ancient Pagan would imagine that Astrea had returned to take up her abode in our metropolis; a primitive Chris­tian would conclude, that ‘righteousness [Page 17] and peace had there met together.’ But how would they be surprised to find that the obligation to these duties was not al­ways thought binding on their eloquent en­comiasts! that universal benevolence may subsist with partial injustice, and boundless liberality with sordid selfishness! that one may seem eager in redressing the injuries of half the globe, without descending to the petty detail of private virtues; and burn with zeal for the good of millions one never saw, and yet spread vice and ruin through the little circle of one's own personal in­fluence!

When the general texture of an irregular life is spangled over with some constituti­onal pleasing qualities; when gaiety, good humour, and a thoughtless profusion of ex­pence throw a lustre round the faultiest cha­racters, it is no wonder that common ob­servers are blinded into admiration: a pro­fuse generosity dazzles them more than all [Page 18] the duties of the decalogue. But though it may be a very useful quality towards se­curing the election of a borough, it will contribute but little towards making sure the calling and election to the kingdom of heaven. It is somewhat strange that extra­vagance should be the great criterion of goodness with those very people who are themselves the victims to this idol; for the prodigal pays no debts if he can help it: and it is notorious, that in one of the wit­tiest and most popular comedies which this country has ever produced, those very pas­sages which exalt liberality at the expence of justice, were nightly applauded with en­thusiastic rapture by those deluded trades­men, whom, perhaps, that very sentiment helped to keep out of their money.

But there is another sort of fashionable character, whose false brightness is still more pernicious, by casting a splendour over the most destructive vices. Corrupt manners, [Page 19] ruinous extravagance, and the most fatal passion for play are sometimes gilded over with many engaging acts of charity, and a general attention and respect to the cere­monials of Christianity. But this is degrad­ing the venerable image and superscription of religion, by stamping them on baser me­tal than they were ever intended to impress. The young and gay shelter themselves un­der such examples, and scruple the less to adopt the bad parts of such mixed charac­ters, when they see that an immoral con­duct is so compatible with a religious pro­fession.

But I digress from my intention; for it is not the purpose of this address to take notice of any actions which the common consent of mankind has determined to be wrong; but of such chiefly, as are practised by the sober, the decent, and the regular; and to drop a few hints on such less obvi­ous offences as are in general,

[Page 20] Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne.

Nor will the bounds which I have prescri­bed myself allow of my wandering into a wide and general field of observation.

The idea of the present slight perform­ance was suggested by reading the King's late excellent proclamation against irreligion and immorality. Under the shelter of so high a sanction it may not be unseasonable to press on the hearts of the better disposed, such observances as seem to be generally overlooked, and to remark such offences as commonly elude censure, because they are not commonly thought censurable.

It is obvious to all serious persons, that that branch of the divine law, against which the better kind of people trespass with the least scruple, is the fourth commandment. Many who would shudder at the violation of the other nine, seem without ceremony to expunge this from the divine code; but by what authority they do this, has never [Page 21] been explained. The Christian legislator does not seem to have abridged the com­mandments; and there is no subsequent authority so much as pretended to by Pro­testants.

It is not here intended to take notice of such flagrant offences as lie open to the cog­nizance of higher tribunals; or to pollute this paper with descanting on the holders of card assemblies on Sundays, the frequent­ers of taverns and gaming houses; the prin­ters of Sunday newspapers; the proprietors of Sunday stage coaches; and others, who openly insult the laws of the land; laws which will always be held sacred by good citizens, even were not the law of God antecedent to them.

Many of the order whom I here address are persons of the tenderest humanity, and not only wish well to the interests of virtue, but are favourably disposed to advance the cause of religion; nay, would be extremely [Page 22] startled at not being thought sincerely reli­gious: yet from inconsideration, want of time, want of self-examination, want of suspecting the deceitfulness of the human heart, sometimes allow themselves in inat­tentions and negligences, which materially affect their own safety, and the comfort of others.—While an animated spirit of cha­rity seems to be kindled among us; while there is a general disposition to instruct the ignorant, and to reform the vicious; one cannot help regretting that these amiable exertions should be counteracted, in some degree, by practices of a directly opposite tendency; trifling in their appearance, but serious in their effects.

There are still among us petty domestic evils, which seem too inconsiderable to claim redress. There is an aggrieved bo­dy of men in our very capital, whose spi­ritual hardships seem scarcely to have been [Page 23] taken into consideration, I mean the HAIR DRESSERS, on whom

The Sunday shines, no day of rest to them.

Is there not a peculiar degree of unkind­ness in exercising such cruelty on the souls of men, whose whole lives are employed in embellishing our persons? And is it quite conceivable how a lady's conscience is able to make such nice distinctions, that she would be shocked at the idea of sending for her mantuamaker, or milliner, her car­penter, or mason, on a Sunday, while she makes no scruple regularly to employ a hair dresser?

Is it not almost ridiculous to observe the zeal we have for doing good at a distance, while we neglect the little, obvious, every­day, domestic duties, which should seem to solicit our immediate attention? But an action ever so right and meritorious, which is only to be periodically performed, [Page 24] at distant intervals, is less burthensome to corrupt nature, than an undeviating atten­tion to such small, constant, right habits as are hostile to our natural indolence, and would be perpetually vexing and disturb­ing our self-love. The weak heart indul­ges its infirmity, by allowing itself inter­mediate omissions, and habitual neglects of duty; reposing itself for safety, on regular, but remote returns of stated performances. It is less trouble to subscribe to the propa­gation of the Gospel in foreign parts, than to have daily prayers in our own families: and I am persuaded that there are multi­tudes of well-meaning people who would gladly contribute to a mission of Christia­nity to Japan or Otaheite, to whom it ne­ver occurred, that the hair dresser, whom they are every Sunday detaining from church, has a soul to be saved; that the law of the land cooperates with the law of God, to forbid their employing him; [Page 25] and that they have no right, either legal or moral, to this portion of his time. The poor man himself, perhaps, dares not re­monstrate, for fear he should be deprived of his employment for the rest of the week. If there were no other objection to a plea­surable Sunday among the great and afflu­ent, methinks this single one might ope­rate; would not a devout heart be unwil­ling to rob a fellow creature of his time for devotion, or a humane one of his hour of rest?

It is strange that there should be so lit­tle consistency in human conduct, that the same persons should gladly contribute to spread the light of Christianity in another hemisphere; while, by their example, they actually obstruct the progress of it at home. But it is, I doubt not, much oftener ow­ing to the imperceptible influence of cus­tom and habit, than to a decided ill inten­tion. Besides, it may be in morals as it is [Page 26] in optics, the eye and the object may come too close to each other, to answer the end of vision. There are certain faults which press too near our self-love to be even per­ceptible to us.

There is an evil newly crept into polish­ed society, and it comes under a mask so specious, that they are chiefly good sort of people who are allured by it; I mean SUN­DAY CONCERTS. Many, who would be startled at a prophane, or even an idle a­musement, think that the name of sacred music sanctifies the diversion. But if those who live in ease and affluence do not make these petty renunciations of their own ways, and their own pleasure, what criterion have we by which to judge of their sincerity? For as the goodness of Providence has ex­empted them from painful occupations, they have neither labour from which to rest, nor business from which to refrain.—A little abstinence from pleasure is the on­ly [Page 27] evidence of their obedience to the divine precept.

I know with what indignant scorn this remark will, by many, be received: that much will be advanced in favour of the sanctity of this amusement. I shall be told that the words are, many of them, extracted from the Bible, and that the com­position is the divine Handel's. But were the angel Gabriel the poet, the archangel Michael the composer, and the song of the Lamb the subject, it would not abro­gate that statute of the Most High, which has said, ‘Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath-day, and thy SERVANT, and thy CAT­TLE, shall do no manner of work.’—I am persuaded that the hallelujahs of Hea­ven would make no moral music to the ear of a conscientious person, while he reflec­ted that multitudes of servants are waiting in the street, exposed to every temptation; engaged, perhaps, in prophane swearing, [Page 28] and idle, if not dissolute conversation: and the very cattle are deprived of that rest which the tender mercy of God was graci­ously pleased, by an astonishing condescen­sion, to include in the commandment.

But I will, for the sake of argument, so far concede as to allow of the innocence, and even piety of Sunday concerts: I will suppose (what, however, does not always happen) that no unhallowed strains are ever introduced; that some attend these concerts with a view to cultivate devout affections; that they cherish the serious impressions ex­cited by the music, and retire in such a frame of spirit as convinces them that the heart was touched while the ear was grati­fied: Nay, I would grant, if such a con­cession would be accepted, that the in­tervals were filled up with conversation, "whereby one may edify another:"—Yet all these good effects, allowing them real­ly to have been produced, will not remove [Page 29] the invincible objection of an EVIL EX­AMPLE; and what liberal spirit would re­fuse any reasonable sacrifice of its own plea­sure to so important a motive? Your ser­vants have been accustomed to consider a concert as a secular diversion; if you, there­fore, continue it on a Sunday, will not they also expect to be indulged on that day with their common amusements? St. Paul, who was a very liberal thinker, believed it prudent to make frequent sacrifices of things indifferent in themselves. He was willing to deny himself a harmless and law­ful gratification, even as long as the world stood, rather than shock the tender consci­ences of men of less understanding. Where a practice is neither good nor evil, in it­self, it is both discreet and generous to avoid it, if it can be attended with any pos­sible danger to minds less enlightened, and to faith less confirmed.

But, religion apart, I have sometimes [Page 30] wondered that people do not yield to the temptation that is held out to them, of ab­staining from diversions one day in seven, upon motives of mere human policy; as voluptuaries sometimes fast, to give a keen­er relish to the delights of the next repast. For pleasure, like an over-fed lamp, is ex­tinguished by the excess of its own aliment. But the lovers of pleasure are not always prudent, even upon their own principles: for I am persuaded that the world would afford much more real satisfaction than it does, if we did not press, and torture, and strain it, to yield what it does not contain. Much good, and much pleasure, it does liberally bestow; but no labour, or art, can extract from it that elixir of peace, that divine essence of content, which it is not in its nature to produce. There is good sense in searching into every blessing for its hidden properties; but it is folly to ransack and plunder it for such as the ex­perience [Page 31] of all ages tells us are foreign to it. We exhaust the world of its pleasures, and then lament that it is empty; we wring those pleasures to the very dregs, and then complain that they are vapid.

I shall, probably, be accused of a very narrow and fanatical spirit, in animadvert­ing on a practice so little suspected of harm as the frequenting of public walks and gar­dens on a Sunday: and certainly, there cannot be an amusement more entirely harmless in itself. But I must appeal to the honest testimony of our own hearts, if the effect be favourable to seriousness. Do we commonly retire from these places with the impressions which were made on us at church in their full force? We entered these sprightly scenes, perhaps, with a strong remaining tincture of that devout spirit which the public worship had infused into the mind. But have we not felt in gradu­ally diminish? Have not our powers of [Page 32] resistance grown insensibly weaker? The doctrines, which in the morning appeared the sober dictates of reason, now seem un­reasonably rigid; and truths, which were then thought incontrovertible, now appear impertinent. To answer arguments is much easier than to withstand allurement. The understanding may controvert a start­ling proposition with less difficulty than the sliding heart can resist the infection of se­ducing gaiety. To oppose a cold and spe­culative faith to the illusion of present plea­sure, is to fight with inadequate weapons: it isresisting arms with rules; it is combat­ing a temptation with an idea. Whereas, he who engages in the Christian warfare, will find that his chief strength consists in knowing that he is very weak; that to re­treat from danger is his highest glory, and to decline the combat his truest courage.

Whatever indisposes the mind for the duty of any particular season, though it as­sume [Page 33] same ever so innocent a form, cannot be perfectly right. If the heart be laid open to the incursion of vain imaginations, and worldly thoughts, it matters little by what gate the enemy entered. If the effect be injurious, the cause cannot be quite harm­less. It is the perfidious property of cer­tain pleasures, that, though they seem not to have the smallest harm in themselves, they imperceptibly indispose the mind to every thing that is good.

Many readers will be apt to produce against all this preciseness, that hackneyed remark which one is tired of hearing, that Sunday diversions are allowed publicly in many foreign countries, as well in those professing the reformed religion, as po­pery. But the corruptions of one part of the Protestant world are no reasonable jus­tification of the evil practices of another. Error and infirmity can never be proper ob­jects of imitation. It is still a remnant of [Page 34] the old leaven: and as to pleading the prac­tice of Roman Catholic countries, one blushes to hear an enlightened Protestant justifying himself by examples drawn from that benighted religion.

Besides, though I am far from vindica­ting the amusements permitted on Sundays in foreign countries, by allowing that esta­blished custom, and long prescription, have the privilege of conferring right; yet so­reigners may, at least, plead the sanction of custom, and the connivance of the law. While in this country, the law of the land, and established usage, concurring with still higher motives, give a sort of venerable sanction to religious observances, the breach of which will be always more liable to mis­construction than in countries where so ma­ny motives do not concur.

I am not an advocate for the severity of a Jewish, or the moroseness of a puritani­cal sabbath. I am likewise far from inferring [Page 35] that all those who neglect a strict observa­tion of Sunday, are remiss in the perform­ance of their other duties: but I will ven­ture to affirm, that all whom I have re­marked conscientiously to observe [...] day from right motives, have been uniformly attentive to their general conduct. It has been the opinion of many wise and good men,* that Christianity will stand, or fall, [Page 36] as this day is neglected, or observed. Sun­day seems to be a kind of Christian Palla­dium; and the city of God will never be totally taken by the enemy till the observ­ance of that be quite lost. Every sincere soldier of the great Captain of our Salvation must, therefore, exert himself in its defence, as ever he would preserve the divine Fort of Revelation against the confederated at­tacks of the world and the devil.

I shall proceed to enumerate a few of the many causes which seem to impede well­disposed people in the progress of religion. None perhaps contributes more to it than that cold, prudential caution against the folly of aiming at perfection, so frequent in the mouths of the worldly wise. ‘We must take the world,’ say they, ‘as we find it; reformation is not the business of indi­viduals, and we are commanded not to be righteous overmuch.’ But these ad­monitions are contrary to every maxim in [Page 37] human affairs. In arts and letters* the most consummate models are held out to imitation. We never hear any body cau­tioned against becoming too wise, too learn­ed, or too rich. Zeal, in business, is ac­counted commendable; in friendship it is amiable; in all the perishing concerns of earthly things it is extolled as exhibiting marks of a sprightly temper, and a vigorous mind. Strange! that to be "fervent in spirit," should only be dishonourable in that single instance which should seem to demand unremitting diligence, and unextinguished warmth.

But after all, is an excessive and intem­perate zeal the common vice of the times? [Page 38] Is there any very imminent danger that the enthusiasm of the great should transport them to dangerous and inconvenient exces­ses? Are our young men of fashion so very much led away by the ardour of piety, that they require to have their imaginations coo­led by the freezing maxims of worldly wis­dom? Is the spirit of the age so very much inclined to catch and to communicate the fire of devotion, as to require to be damp­ed by admonition, or extinguished by ridi­cule? When the inimitable Cervantes at­tacked the wild notions and romantic ideas which misled the age in which he lived, he did wisely, because he combated an actually existing evil; but in this latter end of the eighteenth century, there seems to be little more occasion (among persons of rank, I mean) of cautions against enthusiasm than against chivalry; and he who declaims a­gainst religious excesses in the company of well-bred people, shews himself to be as [Page 39] little acquainted with the manners of the times, as he would do who should think it a point of duty to write another Don Quixote.

Among the devices dangerous to our mo­ral safety, certain favourite and specious maxims are not the least successful, as they carry with them an imposing air of indul­gent candour, and always seem to be on the popular side of good nature. One of the most obvious of these is, that method of reconciling the conscience to practices not decidedly wicked, and yet not scrupulously right, by the qualifying phrase, that there is no harm in it. I am mistaken, if more innocent persons do not inflame their spiri­tual reckoning by this treacherous apology than by almost any other means. Few are systematically, or premeditatedly wicked; or propose to themselves, at first, more than such small indulgences as they are persuaded have no harm in them. But this latitude is [Page 40] gradually and imperceptibly enlarged. As the expression is vague and indeterminate; as the darkest shade of virtue, and the light­est shade of vice, melt into no very incongru­ous colouring; as the bounds between good and evil are not always so precisely defined, but that he who ventures to the confines of the one, will find himself on the borders of the other; every one furnishes his own de­finition; every one extends the supposed limits a little farther; till the bounds which fence in permitted from unlawful pleasures are gradually broken down, and the marks which separated them imperceptibly de­stroyed.

It is, perhaps, one of the most alarming symptoms of the degeneracy of morals in the present day, that the distinctions of right and wrong are almost swept away in polite conversation. The most serious offences are often named with cool indifference; the most shameful profligacy with affected [Page 41] tenderness and indulgent toleration. The substitution of the word gallantry for that crime which stabs domestic happiness and conjugal virtue, is one of the most dange­rous of all the modern abuses of language. Atrocious deeds should never be called by gentle names. This must certainly contri­bute, more than any thing, to diminish the horror of vice in the rising generation.—That our passions should be too often en­gaged on the side of error, we may look for the cause, though not for the vindicati­on, in the unresisted propensities of our con­stitution: but that our reason should ever be employed in its favour, that our conversation should ever be taught to palliate it, that our judgment should ever look on it with indif­ference, has no shadow of excuse: because this can pretend to no foundation in nature, no apology in temptation, no palliative in passion.

However defective, therefore, our prac­tice [Page 42] may be; however we may be allured by seduction, or precipitated by passion, let us beware of lowering the STANDARD OF RIGHT. This induces an imperceptible corruption into the heart, stagnates the no­blest principle of action, irrecoverably de­bases the sense of moral and religious obli­gation, and prevents us from living up to the height of our nature. It cuts off all communication with virtue, and almost pre­vents the possibility of a return to it. If we do not rise as high as we aim, we shall rise the higher for having aimed at a lofty mark: but where the RULE is low, the practice cannot be high, though the con­verse of the proposition is not proportiona­bly true.

Nothing more benumbs the exertions of ardent youthful virtue, than the cruel sneer which worldly prudence bestows on active goodness; and the cool derision it expresses at the defeat of a benevolent scheme, of [Page 43] which malice, rather than penetration, had foreseen the failure. Alas! there is little need of any such discouragements. The world is a climate which too naturally chills a glowing generosity, and contracts an ex­panded heart. The zeal of the most san­guine is but too apt to cool, and the acti­vity of the most diligent, to slacken of itself: and the disappointments which Benevolence encounters in the failure of her best con­certed projects, and the frequent depravity of the most chosen objects of her bounty, would soon dry up the amplest streams of charity, were they not sed by the living fountain of religious principle.

I cannot dismiss this part of my subject without animadverting on the too prompt alacrity, even of worthy people, to disse­minate, in public and general conversation, instances of their unsuccessful attempts to do good. I never hear a charity story be­gun to be related in mixed company, that [Page 44] I do not tremble for the catastrophe, lest it should exhibit some mortifying disap­pointment, which may deter the inexperi­enced from running any generous hazards, and excite harsh suspicions, at an age, when it is less dishonourable to meet with a few casual hurts, and transient injuries, than to go cased in the cumbersome and impe­netrable armour of distrust. The liberal should be particularly cautious how they furnish the avaricious with creditable pre­tences for saving their money, as all the in­stances of the mortifications of the humane are added to the armoury of the covetous man's arguments, and produced, as defen­sive weapons, upon every fresh attack on his heart or his purse.

But I am willing to hope that that un­charitableness which we so often meet with in persons of advanced years, is not always the effect of a heart naturally hard. Mis­anthropy is very often nothing but abused [Page 45] sensibility. Long habits of the world, and a melancholy conviction how little good he has been able to do in it, hardens many a tender hearted person. The milk of hu­man kindness becomes soured by repeated acts of ingratitude. This commonly in­duces an indifference to the well-being of others, and a hopelessness of adding to the stock of human virtue and human happi­ness. This uncomfortable disease is very fond of spreading its own contagion, which is a cruelty to the health of young and un­infected virtue.—For this distemper, gene­rated by a too sanguine disposition, and grown chronical from repeated disappoint­ments, there is but one remedy, or rather one prevention: and this is a genuine prin­ciple of piety. He who is once convinced that he is to assist his fellow creatures, be­cause it is the will of God, and one of the conditions of obtaining his favour, will soon get above all uneasiness when the con­sequence [Page 46] does not answer his expectation. He will soon become only anxious to do his duty, humbly committing events to higher hands. Disappointments will then only serve to refine his motives, and puri­fy his virtue. His charity will then become a sacrifice less unworthy of the altar on which it is offered. His affections will be more spiritualized, and his devotions more intense. Nothing short of such a coura­geous piety can preserve a heart hackneyed in the world from relaxed diligence, or cri­minal despair.

People in general are not aware of the mischief of judging of the rightness of any action by its prosperity, or of the excel­lence of any institution by the abuse of it. We must never proportion our exertions to our success, but to our duty. If every laudable undertaking were to be dropped because it failed in some cases, or was a­bused in others, there would not be left an [Page 47] Alms-House, a Charity-School, or an Hos­pital in the land. And if every right prac­tice were to be discontinued because it had been found not to be successful in every in­stance, this false reasoning, pushed to the extreme, might at last be brought as an ar­gument for shutting up our churches, and burning our bibles.

But if, on the one hand, there is a proud and arrogant discretion which ridicules, as Utopian and romantic, every generous pro­ject of the active and the liberal; so there is on the other, a sort of popular bounty which arrogates to itself the exclusive name of feeling, and rejects with disdain the in­fluence of an higher principle. I am far from intending to depreciate this humane and exquisitely tender sentiment, which the beneficent Author of our nature gave us, as a stimulus to remove the distresses of others, in order to get rid of our own un­easiness. I would only observe, that where [Page 48] not strengthened by superior motives, it is a casual and precarious instrument of good, and ceases to operate, except in the imme­diate presence, and within the audible cry of misery. This sort of feellng forgets that any calamity exists which is out of its own sight; and though it would empty its purse for such an occasional object as rouses tran­sient sensibility, yet it seldom makes any stated provision for miseries, which are not the less real because they do not obtrude upon the sight, and awaken the tenderness of immediate sympathy. This is a mecha­nical charity, which requires springs and wheels to set it a going; whereas, real Christian charity does not wait to be acted upon by impressions and impulses.

Another cause which very much intimi­dates well-disposed people, is their terror, lest the character of piety should derogate from their reputation as men of sense.—Every man of the world naturally arrogates [Page 49] to himself the superiority of understanding over every religious man. He, therefore, who has been accustomed to set a high va­lue on his intellectual powers, must have made very considerable advances in piety before he can acquire a magnanimous in­difference to this usurped superiority; be­fore he can submit to the parsimonious al­lotment of wit and learning, which is as­signed him by the supercilious hand of worldly wisdom. But this attack upon his pride will be the best touchstone of his sin­cerity. If his advances have not been so considerable, then, by an hypocrisy of the least common kind, he will be industrious to appear less good than he really is, lest the detection of his serious propensities should draw on him the imputation of or­dinary parts or low attainments. But the danger is, that while he is too sedulously in­tent on maintaining his pretensions as an ingenious man, his claims to piety should [Page 50] daily become weaker. That which is long suppressed is too frequently extinguish­ed. For this reason, principally, it is to be regretted that religious conversation should be so carefully banished from polite company. Were it otherwise, young and bashful piety, instead of being afraid to show its head, would be cultivated, che­rished, and encouraged. For while we are beings compounded of passion as well as intellect, the devotion of the generality is not so purely spiritual as not to stand in need of every external and collateral help. Fir [...] is too apt to be extinguished without the aid of such material fuel as is possessed of igneous particles.

Nothing perhaps more plainly discovers the faint impression which religion has real­ly made upon our hearts, than this disin­clination, even of good people, to serious conversation. Let me not be misunder­stood; I do not mean the wrangle of de­bate; [Page 51] I do not mean the gall of contro­versy; I do not mean the fiery strife of opi­nions, than which nothing can be less fa­vourable to good nature, good manners, or good society. But it were to be wish­ed, that it was not thought ill-bred and in­discreet that the escapes of the tongue should now and then betray the ‘abun­dance of the heart:’ that when such subjects are casually introduced, a discou­raging coldness did not instantly take place of that sprightly animation of countenance which made common topics interesting. If these outward and visible signs were un­equivocai, we should form but moderate ideas of the inward and spiritual grace. It were to be wished, that such subjects were not thought dull merely because they are good; that they had the common chance of fair discussion; and that parts and learn­ing were not ashamed to exert themselves on occasions where both might appear to so [Page 52] much advantage. If the heart were really interested, could the affections forbear now and then to break out into language? Ar­tists, physicians, merchants, lawyers and scholars keep up the spirit of their profes­sions, by mutual intercourse. New lights are struck out, improvements are sugges­ted, emulation is kindled, love of the ob­ject is inflamed, mistakes are rectified, and desire of excellence is excited by commu­nication. And is piety alone so very easy of acquisition, so very natural to our cor­rupt hearts, or so certainly progressive of itself, as to require none of the helps which are indispensable on all other subjects?—Travellers, who are to visit any particular country, are full of earnest inquiry, and di­ligent research; they think nothing indif­ferent by which their future pleasure or ad­vantage may be affected. Every hint which may procure them any information, or caution them against any danger, is thank­fully [Page 53] received; and all this, because they are really in earnest in their preparation for this journey; and do fully believe, not only that there is such a country, but that they have a personal interest in the good, or evil, which may be found in it.

A farther danger to good kind of people seems to arise from a mistaken idea, that only great and actual sins are to be guard­ed against. Whereas, sins of omission make up, perhaps, the most formidable part of their catalogue of offences. These generally supply in number what they want in weight, and are the more dangerous for being little ostensible. They continue to be repeated with less regret, because the remembrance of their predecessors does not, like the remembrance of formal, actual crimes, assume a body and a shape, and terrify by the impression of particular scenes and circumstances. While the memory of transacted evil haunts a tender conscience [Page 54] by perpetual apparition; omitted duty, ha­ving no local or personal existence, not be­ing recorded by standing acts and deeds, and having no distinct image to which the mind may recur, sinks into quiet oblivion, without deeply wounding the conscience, or tormenting the imagination. These omissions were, perhaps, among the ‘se­cret sins,’ from which the royal peni­tent so earnestly desired to be cleansed: and it was worthy of the most serious conside­ration, that these are the offences against which the Gospel pronounces very alarm­ing denunciations. It is not less against [...]ative than actual evil, that affectionate exhortation, lively remonstrance, and point­ed parable, are exhausted. It is against the tree which bore NO fruit, the lamp which had NO oil, the unprofitable servant who made NO use of his talent, that the severe sentence is denounced; as well as against corrupt fruit, bad oil, and talents [Page 55] ill employed. We are led to believe, from the same high authority, that omitted du­ties, and neglected opportunities, will fur­nish no inconsiderable portion of our fu­ture condemnation. A very awful part of the decision, in the great day of account, seems to be reserved merely for omissions and negatives. Ye gave me NO meat; ye gave me NO drink; ye took me NOT in; ye visited me NOT▪ On the punishment attending positive crimes, as being more naturally obvious, more logically consequent, it was not, perhaps, thought so ne­cessary to insist.

Another cause, which still further impedes the reception of religion even among the well-disposed, is, that garment of sadness in which people delight to suppose her dressed; and that life of hard austerity, and pining abstinence, which they pretend she enjoins her disciples. And it were well if this were only the misrepresentation of her declared [Page 56] enemies; but, unhappily, it is the too fre­quent misconception of her injudicious friends. But such an overcharged picture is not more unamiable than it is unlike; for I will venture to affirm, that Religion, with all her beautiful and becoming sanc­tity, imposes fewer sacrifices, not only of rational, but of pleasurable enjoyment, than the uncontrolled dominion of any one vice. Her service is not only perfect safety, but perfect freedom. She is not so tyrannizing as Passion, so exacting as the World, nor so despotic as Fashion. Let us try the case by a parallel, and examine it, not as affect­ing our virtue, but our pleasure. Does Religion forbid the cheerful enjoyments of life as rigorously as Avarice forbids them? Does she require such sacrifices of our ease as Ambition? or such renunciations of our quiet as Pride? Does Devotion murder sleep like Dissipation? Does she destroy Health like Intemperance? Does she annihilate [Page] Fortune like Gaming? Does she imbitter Life like Discord; or abridge it like Duel­ling? Does Religion impose more vigi­lance than Suspicion? or half as many mortifications as Vanity? Vice has her martyrs: and the most austere and self-de­nying Ascetic (who mistakes the genius of Christianity almost as much as her enemies) never tormented himself with such cruel and causeless severity as that with which Envy lacerates her unhappy votaries.—Worldly honour obliges us to be at the trouble of resenting injuries; but Religion spares us that inconvenience by command­ing us to forgive them; and by this injunc­tion consults our happiness no less than our virtue; for the torment of constantly hating any one must be, at least, equal to the sin of it.—If this estimate be fairly made, then is the balance clearly on the side of Religion even in the article of pleasure.

It is an infirmity not uncommon to good [Page 58] kind of people, to comfort themselves that they live in the exercise of some one natural good quality, and to make a religious merit of a constitutional happiness. They have also a strong propensity to separate what God has joined; belief and practice; the creed and the commandments; actions and motives; moral duty and religious obedi­ence. Whereas, you will hardly find, in all the New Testament, a moral, or a social virtue that is not hedged in by some religi­ous injunction: scarcely a good action en­joined towards others, but it is connected to some exhortation to personal purity.—All the charities of benevolence are, in ge­neral, so agreeable to the natural make of the heart, that it is a very tender mercy of God to have made that a duty, which, to finer spirits, would have been irresistible as an inclination; and to annex the highest future reward to the greatest present plea­sure. But in order to give a religious sanc­tion [Page 59] to a social virtue, the duty of visiting the fatherless and widow in their affliction, is inseparably attached to the difficult and self-denying injunction of keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. This adjunct is the more needful as many are apt to make a kind of moral commutation, and to allow themselves so much pleasure in ex­change for so much charity. But one good quality can never stand proxy for another. The Christian virtues derive their highest lustre from association: they have such a spirit of society, that they are weak and imperfect when solitary; their radiance is brightened by communication, and their natural strength multiplied by their alliance with each other.

It cannot be denied that good sort of people sometimes use religion as the volup­tuous use physic. As the latter employ medicine to make health agree with luxury, the former consider religion as a medium [Page 60] to reconcile peace of conscience with a life of pleasure. But no moral chemistry can blend natural contradictions; the world will still be uppermost, and religion will disdain to coalesce with its antipathy.

Let me not be suspected of intending to insinuate that religion encourages men to fly from society, and hide themselves in so­litudes: to renounce the generous and im­portant duties of active life, for the visionary, cold, and fruitless virtues of an Hermitage, or a Cloyster. No: the mischief arises not from our living in the world but from the world living in us; occupying our hearts, and monopolizing our affections. Action is the life of virtue, and the world is the noblest theatre of action. Perhaps some of the most perfect patterns of human conduct may be found in the most public stations, and among the busiest orders of mankind. It is, in­deed, a scene of trial, but the glory of the triumph is proportioned to the peril of the [Page 61] conflict. A sense of danger quickens cir­cumspection, and makes virtue more vigi­lant. Lot maintained his integrity in a great city, proverbially wicked, and forfeited it in the bosom of retirement.

It has been said that worldly good sort of people are a greater credit to their pro­fession, by exhibiting more cheerfulness, gaiety, and happiness, than are visible in serious Christians. If this assertion be true, which I very much suspect, is it not pro­bable that the apparent ease and gaiety of the former may be derived from the same source of consolation which Mrs. Quickly recommends to Falstaff, in Shakespeare's admirable picture of the death-bed scene of that witty profligate? ‘He wished for comfort, quoth mine hostess, and began to talk of God; now I, to comfort him, begged him he should not think of God: it was time enough to trouble himself with these things.’ Do not many de­ceive [Page 62] themselves by drawing water from these dry wells of comfort? and patch up a precarious and imperfect happiness in this world, by diverting their attention from the concerns of the next?

Another obstruction to the growth of piety, is that unhappy prejudice which even good kind of people too often enter­tain against those who differ from them in opinion. Every man who is sincerely in earnest to advance the interests of religion, will have acquired such a degree of candour, as to become indifferent by whom good is done, or who has the reputation of doing it, provided it be actually done. He will be an­xious to increase the stock of human virtue and happiness, by every possible means. He will whet and sharpen every instrument of goodness, though it be not cast in his own mould, or fashioned after his own pattern. He will never consider whether the form suits his own particular taste, but whether [Page 63] the instrument itself be calculated to accom­plish the work of his master. It is a test by which he will be able to judge of his own sincerity, if the delight he feels at hear­ing of a meritorious action suffers no abate­ment, because it was performed by one who differs from him in his religious, or even his political, sentiments.

I shall conclude these loose and imme­thodical hints with a general address to those who content themselves with a decent pro­fession of the doctrines, instead of a diligent discharge of the duties of Christianity. Be­lieve, and forgive me:—you are the people who lower religion in the eyes of its ene­mies. The openly prophane,* the avow­ed enemies to God and goodness, confirm the truths they mean to oppose, illustrate the doctrines they deny, and accomplish [Page 64] the predictions they disbelieve. But you, like an inadequate and faithless prop, over­turn the edifice which you pretend to sup­port.—When an acute and keen-eyed infi­del measures your lives with the rule by which you profess to walk; he finds so lit­tle analogy between them, the copy is so unlike the pattern, that this inconsistency of yours is the pass through which his most dangerous attack is made. And I must confess, that, of all the arguments, which the malignant industry of infidelity has been able to muster, the conduct of professing Christians seems to me to be the only one which is really capable of staggering a man of sense.—He hears of a spiritual and self-denying religion; he reads the beatitudes; he observes that the grand artillery of the Gospel is planted against pride. He then turns to the transcript of this perfect origi­nal; the lives which pretend to be fashion­ed by it. There he sees, with triumphant [Page 65] derision, that pride, self-love, self-sufficien­cy, unbounded personal expence, and an inordinate appetite for pleasure, are reputa­ble vices in the eyes of many of those who acknowledge the truth of the Christian doc­trines. He weighs that meekness to which a blessing is promised, with that arrogance which is too common to be very dishonour­able. He compares that non-conformity to the world, which the Bible makes the criterion of a believer, with that rage for amusement which is not considered as dis­reputable in a Christian. He opposes the self-denying and lowly character of the Au­thor of our faith with the sensual practices of his followers. He finds little resemblance between the restraints prescribed, and the gratifications indulged in. What conclu­sions must a speculative reasoning sceptic draw from such premises? Is it any won­der that such phrases as a broken spirit, a contrite heart, poverty of spirit, refraining [Page 66] the soul, keeping it low, and casting down high imaginations, should be to the unbe­liever "foolishness," when such humilia­ting doctrines are a "stumbling block" to professing Christians, who cannot always cordially relish a religion which professedly tells them it was sent to stain the pride of human glory, and to exclude boasting?

But though the passive and self-denying virtues are not high in the esteem of good sort of people, yet they are peculiarly the evangelical virtues. The world extols bril­liant actions; the Gospel enjoins good ha­bits and right motives: it seldom inculcates those splendid deeds which make heroes, or those sounding sentences which constitute philosophers; but it enjoins the harder task of renouncing self, of living uncorrupted in the world, of subduing besetting sins, and of not thinking of ourselves more high­ly than we ought. The acquisition of glo­ry was the precept of other religions, the [Page 67] contempt of it is the perfection of Christi­anity.

Let us then be consistent, and we shall never be contemptible, even in the eyes of our enemies. Let not the unbeliever say that we have one set of opinions for our theory, and another for our practice; that to the vulgar

We shew the rough and thorny way to heav'n,
While we the primrose path of dalliance tread.

It would become our characters as men of sense, of which consistency is a most un­equivocal proof, to choose some rule and abide by it. An extempore Christian is a ridiculous character. Fixed principles will be followed by a consistent course of acti­on; while indecision of spirit will produce instability of conduct. If there be a model which we profess to admire, let us square our lives by it. If the Koran of Mahomet, or the Revelations of Zoroaster, be a perfect [Page 68] guide, let us follow one of them. If either Epicurus, Zeno, or Confucius, be the pe­culiar object of our veneration and respect, let us fashion our conduct by the dictates of their philosophy; and then, though we may be wrong, we shall not be absurd. But if the Bible be in truth the word of God, as we profess to believe, we need look no farther for a consummate pattern. Let us then make it the rule of practice here, if it is indeed to be the rule of our judgment hereafter.

But I am willing to flatter myself that the moral and intellectual scene about us begins to brighten. I indulge myself in moments of the most enthusiastic and de­lightful vision; taking encouragement from that glorious prophecy, that ‘of the in­crease of his government there shall be no end.’ A prediction which seems to be gradually accomplishing: and in no in­stance more, perhaps, than in the noble [Page 69] attempt about to be made for the abolition of the African slave-trade. For what event can human wisdom foresee more likely to contribute to ‘give the SON the Heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession,’ than the success of such an enterprize, which will restore the lustre of the Christian name, too long sullied with oppression, cruelty, and injustice?

A good spirit seems to be at work. A catholic temper is diffusing itself among all sects and parties: and enlightened candour, and a liberal toleration were never more prevalent; good men combat each other's opinions with less rancour, and better man­ners. We have many public encourage­ments; we have a pious king; a wise and virtuous minister; many respectable, and not a few serious, clergy. (May their num­ber daily increase!) Among these some of the first in dignity are the first in conduct. [Page 70] An increasing desire to instruct the poor, to inform the ignorant, and to reclaim the vicious, is spreading among us. The late Royal Proclamation affords an honourable sanction to virtuous endeavours, and lends nerves and sinews to the otherwise feeble exertions of individuals, by inforcing laws wisely planned, but hitherto feebly execu­ted. In short, there is a good hope that we shall more and more become that hap­py people who have the Lord for their God: that as prosperity is already within our walls, peace and virtue may abide in our dwel­lings.

But vain will be all endeavours after par­tial and subordinate amendment. Refor­mation must begin with the GREAT, or it will never be effectual. Their example is the fountain from whence the vulgar draw their habits, actions, and characters. To expect to reform the poor while the opulent are corrupt, is to throw odours into the [Page 71] stream while the springs are poisoned.—Even the excellent institution of Sunday schools for training religious servants, will avail but little, if, as soon as the persons there educated, come into the families of the great, they behold practices diametri­cally opposite to the instructions they have been imbibing. If they fall into the houses of the profligate, they will hear the doc­trines which they have been taught to reve­rence, derided; if into mere worldly fami­lies, they will see them neglected; and to the essential principle of vital Chistianity, oblivion is scarcely less fatal than contempt.

If, therefore, the rich and great will not, from a liberal spirit of doing right, abstain from those offences, for which the poor are to suffer fines and imprisonments, effectual good cannot be done. It will signify little, to lay penalties on the horses of the drover, or on the waggon of the husbandman, while the chariot wheels of the great, roll [Page 72] with incessant motion: and the sacred day on which the sons of industry are command­ed by royal proclamation to desist from travelling, is for that very reason selected for the journeys of the great, and preferred, because the road is encumbered with fewer interruptions. But will it not strike every well-meaning Sunday traveller with a ge­nerous remorse, when he reflects that he owes the accommodation of an unobstruc­ted road to the very obedience which is paid by others to that divine and human law which he is in the very act of violating?

Will not the common people think it a little inequitable that they are abridged of the diversions of the public-house and the gaming yard on Sunday evening, when they shall hear that many houses of the first nobility are on that evening crowded with company, and such amusements carried on as are prohibited by human laws even on common days? As imitation, and a desire [Page 73] of being in the fashion, govern the lower orders of mankind, it is to be feared that they will not think reformation reputable, while they see it recommended only, and not practised, by their betters. A precept coun­teracted by an example, is worse than fruit­less, it is ridiculous: and the common people will be tempted to set an inferior value on goodness, when they find it is on­ly expected from the lower ranks. They cannot surely but smile at the disinterested­ness of their superiors, who, while they seem anxiously concerned to save others, are so little solicitous about their own state. The ambitious vulgar will hardly relish a salvation which is only intended for Plebe­ians; nor will they be apt to entertain ve­ry exalted notions of that promised future reward, the road to which they perceive their betters are so much more earnest to point out to them, than to walk in them­selves.

[Page 74] It was not by inflicting pains and pe­nalties that Christianity first made its way into the world: the divine truths it incul­cated received irresistible confirmation from the LIVES, PRACTICES, and EXAMPLES, of its venerable professors. These were arguments which no popular prejudice could resist, no Jewish logic refute, and no Pagan persecution discredit. Had the primitive Christians only praised and pro­mulgated the most perfect religion the world ever saw, it could have produced but very slender effects on the faith and manners of the people, if the jealous and inquisitive eye of malice could have detected that the DOCTRINES they recommended had not been illustrated by the LIVES they led.

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POSTSCRIPT, TO THE SECOND EDITION.

THE public favour having already brought this little Essay to another edition, the author has been sedulous to discover any particular objections that have been made to it. Since the preceding sheets were printed off, it has been sug­gested by some very respectable persons who have honoured this slight performance with their notice, that it inculcates a too rigid austerity, and carries the point of ob­serving Sunday much too far; that it takes away all the usual occupations of the day, without substituting any others in their stead: and that it only pulls down a wrong system, without so much as attempting to build up a right one. The author begs leave to observe in his own defence, that [Page 76] in animadverting on error, he purposely avoided insisting on obvious duty. To tell people what they already know to be right was less the intention of this address, than to observe upon practices which long ha­bit had prevented them from perceiving to be wrong. Sensible and well-meaning persons can hardly be at a loss on a sub­ject which has exhausted precept, and wea­ried exhortation. To have expatiated on it, would only have been to repeat what is already known and acknowledged to be right, even by those whom the hurry of engagements will not allow to take breath one day in a week, that they may run the race of pleasure with more alacrity on the other six. But, probably, it is not the duties, but the amusements appropriated to the day, about which the inquiry is made. It will, perhaps, be found that the intervals of a Sunday, regularly devoted to all its reasonable and obvious duties, are [Page 77] not likely to be so very tedious, but that they might be easily and pleasantly filled up by cheerful, innocent, and instructive con­versation. Human delights would be very circumscribed indeed, if the practices here noticed as erroneous, included the whole circle of enjoyment. Are the pleasures of retirement, the pleasures of friendship, the pleasures of intellect, and the pleasures of beneficence, to be estimated as nothing?

There will not be found, perhaps, a single person who shall honour these pages with a perusal, who has not been repeat­edly told, with an air of imposing gravity, by those who produce cards on a Sunday evening, that it is better to play than to talk scandal. Before this pithy axiom was in­vented, it was not perhaps suspected that Sunday gaming would ever be adduced as an argument in favour of morals. With­out entering into the comparative excel­lence of these two occupations, or presu­ming [Page 78] to determine which has a claim to pre-eminence of piety, one may venture to be thankful that these alternatives do not seem to empty the whole stock of human resource.

People in the gay and elegant scenes of life are perpetually complaining that an extensive acquaintance, and the necessity of being constantly engaged in large circles and mixed assemblies, leave them little lei­sure for family enjoyment, select conver­sation, and domestic delights. Others, with no less earnestness, lament that the hurry of public stations, and the necessary demands of active life, allow them no time for any but frivolous reading. Now the recurrence of one Sunday in every week, seems to hold out an inviting remedy for both these evils. The sweet and delightful pleasures of family society might then be uninterruptedly enjoyed, by the habitual exclusion of trifling and idle visitors, who [Page 79] do not come to see their friends, but to get rid of themselves. Persons of fashion, living in the same house, and connected by the closest ties, whom business and plea­sure keep asunder during the greatest part of the week, would then have an oppor­tunity of spending a little time together, and of cultivating that friendship for each other, and that affection for their children, to which the present manners are not very fa­vourable. As to the other set of com­plainers, those who can find no time to read; this interval naturally presents itself; and it luckily happens, that some of the most enlightened men the world ever saw have, not unfrequently, devoted their rare talents to subjects peculiarly suited to this day; and that not merely in the didactic form of sermons, which men of the world affect to disdain; but in every alluring shape which human ingenuity could assume. It luckily happens, among a thousand o­ther [Page 80] instances, that the deepest metaphysici­an,* the greatest astronomer, the sublimest poet, the accutest reasoner, the politest writer, the most consumate philosopher, and the profoundest investigator of nature, which this, or perhaps any country has produced, have all written on such subjects as are analogous to the business of this day. Such authors as these, even wits, philoso­phers, and men of the world, must ac­knowledge that it is not bigotry to read, nor enthusiasm to commend. Of this il­lustrious groupe only one was a clergyman, which to a certain class of readers will be a strong recommendation: though it is a little hard that the fastidiousness of modern taste should undervalue the learned and pi­ous labours of divines, only because they are professional. In every other function, a man's compositions are not the less esteem­ed [Page 81] because they peculiarly belong to his more immediate business. Blackstone's opi­nions in jurisprudence are of unquestionable validity, though he was a lawyer; Syden­ham is still consulted as oracular in fevers, in spite of his having been a physician; and the commentaries of Caesar are of esta­blished authority in military operations, notwithstanding he was a soldier.

FINIS.

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