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Jack. He is like many others, who take the king's money and betray lim : let him give up the profits of his place before he kicks at the hand that feeds him. Tho' I'm no scholar, I know that a good government is a good thing. But don't go to make me believe that any government can make a bad man good, or a discontented man happy. What art musing upon, man?
Tom. Let me sum up the evidence, as they say at ʼsizes – Hem; To cut every man's throat who does not think as I do, or hang him up at a lamp-post !—Pretend liberty of conscience, and then banish the parsons only for being conscientious !--Cry out Liberty of the press, and hang up the first man who writes his mind !-Lose our poor laws !-Lose one's wife perhaps upon every little tiff!- March without clothes, and fight without victuals !-No trade !-No Bible ! - No Sabbath, nor day of rest! -No safety, no comfort, no peace in this world—and no world to come! Jack, I never knew thee tell a lie in my life.
Jack. Nor would I now, not even against the French.
Jack. I'll tell thee how we are ruined. We have a king, so loving, that he would not hurt the people if he could; and so kept in, that he could not hurt the people if he would. We have as much liberty as can make us happy, and more trade and riches than allows us to be good. We have the best laws in the world, if they were more strictly enforced ; and the best religion in the world, if it was but better followed. While Old England is safe, I'll glory in her, and pray for her; and when she is in danger, I'll fight for her, and die for her.
Tom. And so will I too, Jack, that's wha I will. (Sings) “ ( the roast beef of Old England !”
Jack. Thou art an honest fellow, Tom.
Tom. This is Rose and Crown night, and Tim Standish is now at his mischief; but we'll go and put an end to that fellow's work, or he'll corrupt the whole club. Jack. Come along.
Tom. No ; first I'll stay to burn my book, and then I'll go and make a bonfire, and
Jack. Hold, Tom. There is but one thing worse than a bitter enemy; and that is an imprudent friend. If thou wouldst show thy love to thy king and country, let's have no drinking, no riot, no bonfires ; but put in practice this text, which our parson preached on last Sunday, “ Study to be quiet, work with your own hands, and mind your own business.”
Tom. And so I will, Jack-Come on.
THOUGHTS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MANNERS
OF THE GREAT TO GENERAL SOCIETY.
YOU ARE THE MAKERS OF MANNERS.”-SHAKSPEARE.
(First printed anonymously in 1798.) 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 foolis hnor 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 the manners of the rest of the world are to be fashioned.
The mass of mankind, in most places, and especially in those conditions of life which exempt them from the temptation to shameful vices, is perhaps chiefly composed of what is commonly termed by the courtesy of the world, 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 theniselves in practices not compatible with the strict profession of Christianity, seem to do it rather from habit and want of reflection, than either from a disbelief of its doctrines, or contempt of its precepts.
Inconsideration, fashion, and the world, 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 which it is the business of the world to lay asleep by the perpetual opiates of ease and pleasure.
A fair reputation is among the 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 ; and by leading him who is too anxious about obtaining it, to stop short without aiming at a higher motive of action. A fatal indolence is apt to creep
upon the soul when it has once acquired the good 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 anything remains undone.
But after all, a fair fame, the support of numbers, and the flattering concurrence of human opinion, 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 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, it being 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 singleness of heart, and uprightness of intention; in whose eyes the sincere prayer of powerless benevolence 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, though it be not exactly squared by our own rules and notions. Even the good actions of such persons 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 among us, 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 do not predominate. The young ruler was certainly one of the first of this order ; and yet we are left in dark uncertainty 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 we do not hear was unfairly acquired, 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 who are rather considered as objects of respect, than of censure. His plan, like theirs, was “to take his ease, to eat, drink, and be merry.”
But the most alarming instance is that of the splendid 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 expenses were suitable to his station, and his splendour proportioned to his opulence, does not exhibit any objection to his character. Nor are we told that he refused the crumbs which Lazarus solicited. 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, a worldly spirit, a heart corrupted by the softness and delights of life. It was not because he was rich, but because he trusted in riches; or, if even he was charitable, his charity wanted that 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 was destitute of piety; and the absence of this great and first principle of human actions rendered his shining 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 the notion that an unrestrained indulgence of pleasure, and an unbounded gratification of the appetites, 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 humanise the affections, it is certain, that nothing hardens the heart like excessive and unbounded luxury; and he who refuses the fewest gratifications to his own voluptuousness, will generally be found the least susceptible of tenderness for the wants of others. In one reign, the cruelties at Rome bore an exact proportion to the dissoluteness at Capreæ. And in another, 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.
Ananias and Sapphira were, perhaps, 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 not the only one, upon whom a good action, without a pure intention, has drawn down a righteous retribution.
Outward actions are the surest, and, indeed, to human eyes the only evidences of sincerity, but 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 à worldly temper, to control irregular desires, and to have “ a clean heart," is to attack sin in its strong-holds. Totally to accomplish this, is, perhaps, beyond the narrow limits of human perfection, the best men being
Nero, whose early life, so far from exhibiting symptoms of that cruelty which has made his name proverbially infamous, was distinguished by gentleness of manner, and acts of kindness, constantly humbled to find, that when they “ would do good, evil is present with them;" but to attempt it, with an humble reliance on superior aid, is so far from being an extravagant or romantic flight 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, just as the sensible horizon recedes from our natural eye. Our highest attainments, instead of bringing us“ to the mark," only teach us that the mark is at a greater distance, by giving us more humbling views of ourselves, and more exalted conceptions of the state after which we are labouring. 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 demonstration. The humble Christian takes refuge under the deep sense of his disappointments and defects, in this consoling hope, “When I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied.”
Let me not here be misunderstood as undervaluing the virtues which even worldly men may possess. I am charmed with humanity, generosity, and integrity, in whomsoever they may be found. But one virtue must not entrench 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; but who shall lower the doctrines of the Gospel, to accommodate them to the conduct of men ? Who shall bend a straight 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 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, not only on the reader, but on their eloquent encomiasts themselves. How would they be surprised to find that universal benevolence may subsist with partial injustice, and boundless liberality with sordid selfishness! that a man 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 he never saw, while he is spreading vice and ruin through the little circle of his 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 expense, throw a lustre round the faultiest