« PreviousContinue »
Than which, there cannot well be a greater abfurdity. For, if no advancement of knowledge can be had from those places, the time there fpent, is at belt utterly lost; because every ornamental part of education is better taught elfewhere. And as for keeping youths out of harm's way, I doubt, where so many of them are got 'together, at full liberty of doing what they please, it will not answer the end. But whatever abuses, corruptions, or deviations from statutes have crept into the universities, through neglect or length of time, they might in a great degree be reformed, by strict injunctions from court (upon each par. ticular) to the visitors and heads of houses ; befides the peculiar authority the Queen may have in several colleges, whereof her predeceffors were the founders. And, among other regulations, it would be very convenient to prevent the excess of drinking, with that fcurvy custom among the lads, and parent of the former vice, the taking of tobacco, where it is not absolutely necessary in point of health.
From the universities, the young nobility, and others of great fortunes, are sent for early up to town, for fear of contracting any airs of pedantry by a college education. Many of the younger gentry retire to the inns of court, where they are wholly left to their own discretion. And the consequence of their remifsnefs in education, appears, by observing, that nine in ten of those who rise in the church or the court, the law or the
army, are younger brothers, or new men, whose narrow fortunes have forced them upon industry and application :
As for the inns of court, unless we suppose them to be much degenerated, they must needs be the worst instituted seminaries in any Christian country; but whether, they may be corrected without interposition of the legislature, I have not skill enough to determine. However, it is certain, that all wise nations have agreed in the necessity of a strict education ; which consisted, among other things, in the observance of moral duties, especially justice, temperance, and chastity, as well as the knowledge of arts, and bodily exercises. But all these, among us, are laughed out of doors.
Without the least intention to offend the clergy, I cannot but think, that, through a mistaken notion and practice, they prevent themfelves from doing much service, which otherwise might lie in their power, to religion and virtue : I mean, by affecting so much to converse with each other, and caring fo little to mingle with the laity. They have their particular clubs, and particular coffeehouses, where they generally appear in clulters. A single divine dares hardly shew his perfon among numbers of fine gentlemen ; or if he happens to fall into such company, he is filent and fufpicious, in continual apprehension that fome pert man of pleasure should break an un-'. mannerly jest, and render him ridiculous. Now,
I take this behaviour of the clergy to be just as reafonable, as if the physicians should agree to spend their time in visiting one another, or their feveral apothecaries, and leave their patients to shift for themselves. In my humble opinion, the clergy's business lies entirely among the laity : neither is there, perhaps, a more effectual way to forward the salvation of mens souls, than for spiritual persons to make themselves as agreeable as they can in the conversations of the world; for which a learned education gives them great advantage, if they would please to improve and apply it. It so happens, that the men of pleasure, who never go to church, nor use themselves to read books of devotion, form their ideas of the clergy from a few poor strollers they often observe in the streets, or sneaking out of some person of quality's house, where they are hired by the lady at ten shillings a-month : while those of better figure and parts, do feldom appear to correct these notions. And, let fome reasoners think what they please, it is certain, that nen must be brought to esteem and love the clergy, before they can be persuaded to be in love with religion. No man values the best medicine, if administered by a physician whose person he hates or defpifes. If the clergy were as forward to appear in all companies, as other gentlemen, and would a little study the arts of conversation, to make themselves agreeable, they might be welcome to every party, where there was the least
regard regard for politeness or good sense ; and consequently prevent a thousand vitious or profane disa courses, as well as actions : neither would men of understanding complain, that a clergyman was a constraint upon the company, because they could not speak blasphemy, or obscene jests before him. While the people are so jealous of the clergy's ambition, as to abhor all thoughts of the return of ecclesiastic discipline among them, I do not see any other method left for men of that function to take, in order to reform the world, than by using all honest arts to make themselves acceptable to the laity. This, no doubt, is part of that wisdom of the serpent, which the author of Christianity directs ; and is the very method used by St. Paul, who became all things to all men, to the Jews a Jew, and a Greek to the Greeks.
How to remedy these inconveniences, may be. a matter of some difficulty; since the clergy seem to be of an opinion, that this humour of sequestering themselves, is a part of their duty; nay, as I remember, they have been told so by some of their bishops in their pastoral letters, particularly by one * among them of great merit and distinction ; who yet, in his own practice, hath all his life-time taken a course directly contrary. But I am deceived, if an awkward shame, and fear of ill usage from the laity, have not a greater Mare in this mistaken conduct, than their own inclinations. However, if the outward profession
* Supposed to be Dr. Burnet, bishop of Salisbury.
of religion and virtue were once in practice and countenance at court, as well as among all men in office, or who have any hopes or dependence for preferment, a good treatment of the clergy. would be the necessary consequence of such a reformation ; and they would soon be wise enough to see their own duty and intereft, in qualifying themselves for lay conversation, when once they were out of fear of being choked by ribaldry or profaneness.
There is one further circumstance upon this occasion, which I know not whether it will be very orthodox to mention. The clergy are the only set of men among us, who constantly wear a distinct habit from others : the consequence of which (not in reason, but in fact) is this, that as e long as any scandalous persons appear in that dress, it will continue, in some degree, a general mark of contempt. Whoever happens to see a scoundrel in a gown, reeling home at midnight, (a fight neither frequent or miraculous,) is apt to entertain an ill idea of the whole order, and at the same time to be extremely comforted in his own vices. Some remedy might be put to this, if those straggling gentlemen, who come up to town to seek their fortunes, were fairly dismissed to the West Indies; where there is work enough, and where some better provision should be made for them, than I doubt there is at present. Or, what if no person were allowed to wear the habit, who had not some preferment in the church, VOL. II,