Page images
PDF
EPUB

partiality. My real design is, I confess, the very same I have often detested in most dedications ; that of publishing your praises to the world; not upon the subject of your noble birth, for I know others as noble; or of the greatness of your fortune, for I know others far greater; or of that beautiful race (the images of their parents) which call you mother; for even this may perhaps have been equalled in some other age or country. Besides, none of these advantages do derive any accomplishments to the owners, but serve at best only to adorn what they really possess. What I intend is, your piety, truth, good sense, and good nature, affability, and charity ; wherein I wish your ladyship had many equals, or any superiors; and I wish I could say, I knew them too, for then your ladyship might have had a chance to escape this address. In the mean time, I think it highly necessary, for the interest of virtue and religion, that the whole kingdom should be informed in some parts of your character: for instance, that the easiest and politest conversation, joined with the truest piety, may be observed in your ladyship, in as great perfection, as they were ever seen apart, in any other persons. That by your prudence and management under several disad

who has seen the world enough to undervalue it with goodbreeding. The author must certainly be a man of wisdom as well as piety, and have spent much time in the exercise of both, The real causes of the decay of the interest of religion are set forth in a clear and lively manner, without unseasonable passions ; and the whole air of the book, as to the language, the sentiments, and the reasonings, shows it was written by one whose virtue sits easy about him, and to whom vice is thoroughly contemptible. It was said by one in company, alluding to that knowledge of the world this author seems to have, " The man writes much like a gentleman, and goes to Heaven with a very good mien."

est of

vantages, you have preserved the lustre of that most noble family, into which you are grafted, and which the unmeasurable profusion of ancestors, for many generations, had too much eclipsed. Then, how happily you perform every office of life, to which Providence has called you: in the education of those two incomparable daughters, whose conduct is so universally admired; in every, duty of a prudent, complying, affectionate wife ; in that care which descends to the mean

your domestics; and lastly, in that endless bounty to the poor, and discretion where to distribute it. I insist on my opinion, that it is of importance for the public to know this and a great deal more of your ladyship; yet whoever goes about to inform them shall, instead of finding credit, perhaps be censured for a flatterer. To avoid so usual a reproach, I declare this to be no dedication, but merely an introduction to a proposal for the advancement of religion and morals, by tracing, however imperfectly, some few lineaments in the character of a lady, who has spent all her life in the practice and promotion of both.

Among all the schemes offered to the public in this projecting age, I have observed, with some displeasure, that there have never been any for the improvement of religion and morals; which, beside the piety of the design, from the consequence of such a reformation in a future life, would be the best natural means for advancing the public felicity of the state, as well as the pre

sent happiness of every individual. For, as much as faith and morality are declined among us, I am altogether confident, they might in a short time, and with no very great trouble, be raised to as high a perfection as numbers are capable of receiving. Indeed, the method is so easy and obvious, and some present opportunities so good, that, in order to have this project reduced to practice, there seems to want nothing more than to put those in mind, who by their honour, duty, and interest, are chiefly concerned.

But because it is idle to propose remedies, before we are assured of the disease, or to be in fear, till we are convinced of the danger, I shall first show in general, that the nation is extremely corrupted in religion and morals; and then I will offer a short scheme for the reformation of both.

As to the first, I know it is reckoned but a form of speech, when divines complain of the wickedness of the age : however, I believe, upon a fair comparison with other times and countries, it would be found an undoubted truth.

For first, to deliver nothing but plain matter of fact without exaggeration or satire, I suppose it will be granted, that hardly one in a hundred among our people of quality or gentry, appears to act by any principle of religion ; that great numbers of them do entirely discard it, and are ready to own their disbelief of all revelation in ordinary discourse. Nor is the case much better among the vulgar, especially in great towns, where the profaneness and ignorance of handicraftsmen, small traders, servants, and the like, are to a degree very hard to be imagined greater. Then, it is observed abroad, that no race of mortals have so little sense of religion, as the English soldiers ; to €onfirm which, I have been often told by great officers of the army, that in the whole compass of their acquaintance, they could not recollect three of their profession, who seemed to regard, or believe, one syllable of the gospel : and the same at least may be affirmed of the fleet. The consequences of all which upon the actions of men are equally manifest. They never go about, as in former times, to hide or palliate their vices, but expose them freely to view, like any other common occurrences of life, without the least reproach from the world, or themselves. For instance, any man will tell you he intends to be drunk this evening, or was so last night, with as little ceremony or scruple, as he would tell you the time of the day. He will let you know he is going to a wench, or that he has got the venereal disease, with as much indifferency, as he would a piece of public news. He will swear, curse, or blaspheme, without the least passion or provocation. And though all regard for reputation is not quite laid aside in the other sex, it is however at so low an ebb, that very few among them seem to think virtue and conduct of absolute necessity for preserving it. If this be not so, how comes it to pass, that women of tainted reputations, find the same countenance and reception in all public places, with those of the nicest virtue, who pay and receive visits from them, without any manner of scruple? which proceeding, as it is not very old among us, so I take it to be of most pernicious consequence: it looks like a sort of compounding between virtue and vice, as if a woman were allowed to be vicious, provided she be not a profligate; as if there were a certain point, where gallantry ends, and infamy begins ;, or that a hundred criminal amours, were not as pardonable as half a score.

[ocr errors]

Beside those corruptions already mentioned, it would be endless to enumerate such as arise from the excess of play or gaming: the cheats, the quarrels, the oaths, and blasphemies, among the men; among the women, the neglect of houshold affairs, the unlimited freedoms, the undecent passion, and lastly, the known inlet to all lewdness, when after an ill run, the person must answer the defects of the purse, the rule on such occasions holding trne in play, as it does in law; quod non habet in crumena, luat in corpore.

But all these are trifles in comparison, if we step into other scenes, and consider the fraud and cozenage of trading men and shopkeepers ; that insatiable gulf of injustice and oppression, the law; the open traffic for all civil and military employments, (I wish it rested there) without the least regard to merit or qualifications; the corrupt management of men in office; the many detestable abuses in choosing those, who represent the people; with the management of interest and factions among the representatives: to which I must be bold to add, the ignorance of some of the lower clergy; the mean servile temper of others; the pert pragmatical demeanour of several young stagers in divinity, upon their first producing themselves into the world; with many other circumstances, needless, or rather invidious to mention; which falling in with the corruptions already related, have, however unjustly, almost rendered the whole order contemptible.

This is a short view of the general depravities among us, withoutenteting into particulars, which would be an endless labour. Now, as universal and deep-rooted as these appear to be, I am utterly deceived, if an effectual remedy might not be applied to most of them; neither am I at pre

« PreviousContinue »