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in his public capacity, as he is a member of that great body the commonwealth, under the same government with ourselves; and this is usually called love of the public, and is a duty to which we are more strictly obliged than even that of loving ourselves; because therein ourselves are also contained, as well as all our neighbours, in one great body. This love of the public, or of the commonwealth, or love of our country, was in ancient times properly known by the name of virtue, because it was the greatest of all virtues, and was supposed to contain all virtues in it; and many great examples of this virtue are left us on record, scarcely to be believed, or even conceived, in such a base, corrupted, wicked age as this we live in. In those times it was common for men to sacrifice their lives for the good of their country, although they had neither hope nor belief of future rewards; whereas, in our days, very few make the least scruple of sacrificing a whole nation, as well as their own souls, for a little present gain; which often hath been known to end in their own ruin in this world, as it certainly must in that to come.
Have we not seen men for the sake of some petty employment give up the very natural rights and liberties of their country and of mankind, in the ruin of which themselves must at last be involved? Are not these corruptions gotten among the meanest of our people, who for a piece of money will give their votes at a venture for the disposal of their own lives and fortunes, without considering whether it be to those who are most likely to betray or defend them? But if I were to produce only one instance out of a hundred wherein we fail in this duty of loving our country, it would be an endless labour, and therefore I shall not attempt it.
But here I would not be misunderstood: by the love of our country I do not mean loyalty to our king, for that is a duty of another nature; and a man may be very loyal in the common sense of the word without one grain of public good at his heart. Witness this very kingdom we live in. I verily believe that since the beginning of the world no nation upon earth ever showed (all circumstances considered) such high constant marks of loyalty in all their actions and behaviour as we have done, and at the same time no people ever appeared more utterly void of what is called a public spirit. When I say the people, I mean the bulk or mass of the people, for I have nothing to do with those in power.
Therefore I shall think my time not ill spent if I can persuade most or all of you who hear me to show the love you have for your country by endeavouring in your several situations to do all the public good you are able. For I am certainly persuaded that all our misfortunes arise from no other original cause than that general disregard among us to the public welfare.
I therefore undertake to show you three things :First, That there are few people so weak or mean who have it not sometimes in their power to be useful to the public.
Secondly, That it is often in the power of the meanest among mankind to do mischief to the public. And, lastly, That all wilful injuries done to the public are very great and aggravated sins in the sight of God.
First, There are few people so weak or mean who have it not sometimes in their power to be useful to the public.
Solomon tells us of a poor wise man who saved a city by his counsel. It hath often happened that a private soldier, by some unexpected brave attempt, hath been instrumental in obtaining a great victory. How many obscure men have been authors of very useful inventions whereof the world now reaps the benefit! The very example of honesty and industry in a pɔor
tradesman will sometimes spread through a neighbourhood when others see how successful he is; and thus so many useful members are gained, for which the whole body of the public is the better. Whoever is blessed with a true public spirit, God will certainly put it into his way to make use of that blessing for the ends it was given him by some means or other; and therefore it hath been observed in most ages that the greatest actions for the benefit of the commonwealth have been performed by the wisdom or courage, the contrivance or industry, of particular men and not of numbers; and that the safety of a kingdom hath often been owing to those hands whence it was least expected.
But, secondly, It is often in the power of the meanest among mankind to do mischief to the public; and hence arise most of those miseries with which the states and kingdoms of the earth are infested. How many great princes have been murdered by the meanest ruffians! The weakest hand can open a flood-gate to drown a country, which a thousand of the strongest cannot stop. Those who have thrown off all regard for public good will often have it in their way to do public evil, and will not fail to exercise that power whenever they can. The greatest blow given of late to this kingdom was by the dishonesty of a few manufacturers, who by imposing bad ware at foreign markets, in almost the only traffic permitted to us, did half ruin that trade, by which this poor unhappy kingdom now suffers in the midst of sufferings. I speak not here of persons in high stations, who ought to be free from all reflection, and are supposed always to intend the welfare of the community; but we now find by experience that the meanest instrument may, by the concurrence of accidents, have it in his power to bring a whole kingdom to the very brink of destruction, and is at this present endeavouring to finish his work; and hath agents among ourselves who are contented to see their own country undone, to be small sharers in that iniquitous gain which at last must end in their own ruin as well as ours. I confess it was chiefly the consideration of that great danger we are in, which engaged me to discourse to you on this subject, to exhort you to a love of your country, and a public spirit when all you have is at stake; to prefer the interest of your prince and your fellow-subjects before that of one destructive impostor and a few of his adherents.
Perhaps it may be thought by some that this way of discoursing is not so proper from the pulpit. But surely when an open attempt is made and far carried on, to make a great kingdom one large poor-house, to deprive us of all means to exercise hospitality or charity, to turn our cities and churches into ruins, to make the country a desert for wild beasts and robbers, to destroy all arts and sciences, all trades and manufactures, and the very tillage of the ground, only to enrich one obscure, ill-designing projector and his followers, it is time for the pastor to cry out "that the wolf is getting into his flock," to warn them to stand together, and all to consult the common safety. And God be praised for his infinite goodness in raising such a spirit of union among us, at least in this point, in the midst of all our former divisions; which union, if it continue, will in all probability defeat the pernicious design of this pestilent enemy to the nation!
But hence it clearly follows how necessary the love of our country or a public spirit is in every particular man, since the wicked have so many opportunities of doing public mischief. Every man is upon his guard for his private advantage; but where the public is concerned, he apt to be negligent, considering himself only as one among two or three millions, among whom the loss is equally shared, and thus he thinks he can be no great sufferer. Meanwhile the trader, the farmer,
and the shopkeeper complain of the hardness and deadness of the times, and wonder whence it comes; while it is in a great measure owing to their own folly, for want of that love of their country, and public spirit and firm union among themselves, which are so necessary to the prosperity of every nation.
Another method by which the meanest wicked man may have it in his power to injure the public is false accusation, whereof this kingdom hath afforded too many examples; neither is it long since no man whose opinions were thought to differ from those in fashion could safely converse beyond his nearest friends for fear of being sworn against as a traitor by those who made a traffic of perjury and subornation; by which the very peace of the nation was disturbed, and men fled from each other as they would from a lion or a bear got loose. And it is very remarkable that the pernicious project now in hand to reduce us to beggary was forwarded by one of these false accusers, who had been convicted of endeavouring, by perjury and subornation, to take away the lives of several innocent persons here among us, and indeed there could not be a more proper instrument for such a work.
Another method by which the meanest people may do injury to the public is the spreading of lies and false rumours: thus raising a distrust among the people of a nation, causing them to mistake their true interest, and their enemies for their friends; and this hath been likewise too successful a practice among us, where we have known the whole kingdom misled by the grossest lies, raised upon occasion to serve some particular turn. As it hath also happened in the case I lately mentioned, where one obscure man, by representing our wants where they were least, and concealing them where they were greatest, had almost succeeded in a project of utterly ruining this whole kingdom, and may still succeed, if God doth not continue that public spirit which he hath almost miraculously kindled in us upon this occasion.
Thus we see the public is many times as it were at the mercy of the meanest instrument, who can be wicked enough to watch opportunities of doing it mischief, upon the principles of avarice or malice, which I am afraid are deeply rooted in too many breasts, and against which there can be no defence, but a firm resolution in all honest men to be closely united and active in showing their love to their country, by preferring the public interest to their present private advantage. If a passenger in a great storm at sea should hide his goods that they might not be thrown overboard to lighten the ship, what would be the consequence? The ship is cast away, and he loses his life and goods together.
We have heard of men who, through greediness of gain, have brought infected goods into a nation; which bred a plague, whereof the owners and their families perished first. Let those among us consider this and tremble, whose houses are privately stored with those materials of beggary and desolation, lately brought over to be scattered like a pestilence among their countrymen, which may probably first seize upon themselves and their families, until their houses shall be made a dunghill.
I shall mention one practice more, by which the meanest instruments often succeed in doing public mischief; and this is by deceiving us with plausible arguments, to make us believe that the most ruinous project they can offer is intended for our good, as it happened in the case so often mentioned. For the poor ignorant people, allured by the appearing convenience in their small dealings, did not discover the serpent in the brass, but were ready, like the Israelites, to offer incense to it; neither could the wisdom of the nation convince them, until some of good intentions
made the cheat so plain to their sight, that those who run may read. And thus the design was to treat us, in every point, as the Philistines treated Samson, (I mean when he was betrayed by Delilah,) first to put out our eyes, and then to bind us with fetters of brass.
I proceed to the last thing I proposed, which was to show you that all wilful injuries done to the public are very great and aggravating sins in the sight of God.
First, It is apparent from Scripture, and most agreeable to reason, that the safety and welfare of nations are under the most peculiar care of God's providence. Thus he promised Abraham to save Sodom, if only ten righteous men could be found in it. Thus the reason which God gave to Jonas for not destroying Nineveh was, because there were six score thousand men in that city.
All government is from God, who is the God of order; and therefore whoever attempts to breed confusion or disturbance among a people doth his utmost to take the government of the world out of God's hands, and put it into the hands of the devil, who is the author of confusion. By which it is plain that no crime, how heinous soever, committed against particular persons, can equal the guilt of him who does injury to the public.
Secondly, All offenders against their country lie under this grievous difficulty, that it is impossible to obtain a pardon or make restitution. The bulk of mankind are very quick at resenting injuries, and very slow in forgiving them: and how shall one man be able to obtain the pardon of millions, or repair the injury he hath done to millions? How shall those who, by a most destructive fraud, got the whole wealth of our neighbouring kingdom into their hands, be ever able to make a recompense? How will the authors and promoters of that villanous project for the ruin of this poor country be able to account with us for the injuries they have already done, although they should no further succeed? The deplorable case of such wretches must entirely be left to the unfathomable mercies of God: for those who know the least in religion are not ignorant that, without our utmost endeavours to make restitution to the person injured, and to obtain his pardon, added to sincere repentance, there is no hope of salvation given in the gospel.
Lastly, All offences against our own country have this aggravation, that they are ungrateful and unnatural. It is to our country we owe those laws which protect us in our lives, our liberties, our properties, and our religion. Our country produced us into the world, and continues to nourish us, so that it is usually called our mother; and there have been examples of great magistrates who have put their own children to death for endeavouring to betray their country, as if they had attempted the life of their natural parent.
Thus I have briefly shown you how terrible a sin it is to be an enemy to our country, in order to incite you to the contrary virtue, which at this juncture is so highly necessary, when every man's endeavour will be of use. We have hitherto been just able to support ourselves under many hardships; but now the axe is laid to the root of the tree, and nothing but a firm union among us can prevent our utter undoing. This we are obliged to in duty to our gracious king, as well as to our ourselves. Let us therefore preserve that public spirit, which God hath raised in us, for our own temporal interest. For if this wicked project should succeed, which it cannot do but by our own folly; if we sell ourselves for nought, the merchant, the shopkeeper, the artificer, must fly to the desert with their miserable families, there to starve or live upon rapine,
or at least exchange their country for one more hospitable than that where they were born.
But, in a stumbling-block of the Mahometans. country already Christian, to bring so fundamental a point of faith into debate can have no consequences that are not pernicious to morals and public peace. I have been often offended to find St. Paul's allego
Thus much I thought it my duty to say to you who are under my care, to warn you against those temporal evils which may draw the worst of spiritual evils after them; such as heart-burnings, murmurings, discon-ries, and other figures of Grecian eloquence, converted tents, and all manner of wickedness which a desperate by divines into articles of faith. condition of life may tempt men to.
I am sensible that what I have now said will not go very far, being confined to this assembly; but I hope it may stir up others of my brethren to exhort their several congregations, after a more effectual manner, to show their love for their country on this important occasion. And this I am sure cannot be called meddling in affairs of state.
I pray God protect his most gracious majesty and this kingdom long under his government; and defend us from all ruinous projectors, deceivers, suborners, perjurers, false accusers, and oppressors; from the virulence of party and faction; and unite us in loyalty to our king, love to our county, and charity to each other.
And this we beg, for Jesus Christ's sake: to whom be all honour, glory, power, might, majesty, and dominion, henceforth, and for evermore. Amen.
You may force men by interest or punishment to say or swear they believe and to act as if they believed; you can go no further.
Every man, as a member of the commonwealth, ought to be content with the possession of his own opinion in private, without perplexing his neighbour or disturbing the public.
Violent zeal for truth has a hundred to one odds, to be either petulancy, ambition, or pride.
There is a degree of corruption wherein some nations, as bad as the world is, will proceed to an amendment, till which time particular men should be quiet.
To remove opinions fundamental in religion is impossible, and the attempt wicked, whether those opinions be true or false; unless your avowed design be to abolish that religion altogether. So for instance, in the famous doctine of Christ's divinity, which has been universally received by all bodies of Christians since the condemnation of Arianism under Constantine and his successors; wherefore the proceedings of the Socinians are both vain and unwarrantable; because they will be never able to advance their own opinion, or meet any other success than breeding doubts and disturbances in the world—Qui ratione suâ disturbant mænia mundi.
The want of belief is a defect that ought to be concealed, when it cannot be overcome.
The Christian religion, in the most early times, was proposed to the Jews and heathens without the article of Christ's divinity; which I remember Erasmus accounts for, by its being too strong a meat for babes. Perhaps if it were now softened by the Chinese missionaries, the conversion of those infidels would be less difficult; and we find by the Alcoran it is the great
God's mercy is over all his works; but divines of all sorts lessen that mercy too much.
I look upon myself, in the capacity of a clergyman, to be one appointed by Providence for defending a post assigned me, and for gaining over as many enemies as I can. Although I think my cause is just, yet one great motive is my submitting to the pleasure of Providence, and to the laws of my country.
I am not answerable to God for the doubts that arise in my own breast, since they are the consequence of that reason which he has planted in me; if I take care to conceal those doubts from others, if I use my best endeavours to subdue them, and if they have no influence on the conduct of my life.
I believe that thousands of men would be orthodox enough in certain points, if divines had not been too curious, or too narrow, in reducing orthodoxy within the compass of subtleties, niceties, and distinctions, with little warrant from Scripture, and less from reason or good policy.
7 never saw, heard, nor read that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country. Nothing can render them popular but some degree of persecution.
Those fine gentlemen, who affect the humour of railing at the clergy, are, I think, bound in honour to turn parsons themselves, and show us better examples.
Miserable mortals! can we contribute to the honour
and glory of God? I could wish that expression were struck out of our Prayer-books.
Liberty of conscience, properly speaking, is no more than the liberty of possessing our own thoughts and opinions, which every man enjoys without fear of the magistrate; but how far he shall publicly act in pur suance of those opinions is to be regulated by the laws of the country. Perhaps, in my own thoughts, I prefer a well-instituted commonwealth before a monarchy; and I know several others of the same opinion. if upon this pretence I should insist upon liberty of conscience, form conventicles of republicans, and print books preferring that government and condemning what is established, the magistrate would, with great justice, hang me and my disciples. It is the same case in religion, although not so avowed; where liberty of conscience, under the present acceptation, equally produces revolutions, or at least convulsions and disturbances, in a state; which politicians would see well enough, if their eyes were not blinded by faction, and of which these kingdoms, as well as France, Sweden, and other countries, are flaming instances. Cromwell's notion upon that article was natural and right, when, upon the surrender of a town in Ireland, the popish governor insisted upon an article for liberty of coucience. Cromwell said, "He meddled with no man's concience; but if by liberty of conscience the governor meant the liberty of the mass, he had express orders from the parliament of England against admitting any such liberty at all."
It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.
Although reason were intended by Providence to govern our passions, yet it seems that in two points of the greatest moment to the being and continuance of the world, God has intended our passions to prevail over reason. The first is, the propagation of our species; since no wise man ever married from the
dictates of reason. The other is, the love of life; which, from the dictates of reason, every man would despise and wish it an end, or that it never had a beginning. The Scripture system of man's creation is what Christians are bound to believe, and seems most agreeable of all others to probability and reason. Adam was formed from a piece of clay, and Eve from one of his ribs. The text mentioneth nothing of his Maker's intending him for, except to rule over the beasts of the field and birds of the air. As to Eve, it doth not appear that her husband was her monarch; only she was to be his help-mate, and placed in some degree of subjection. However, before his fall, the beasts were his most obedient subjects, whom he governed by absolute power. After his eating the forbidden fruit, the course of nature was changed; the animals began to reject his government; some were
able to escape by flight, and others were too fierce to be attacked. The Scripture mentioneth no particular acts of royalty in Adam over his posterity who were contemporary with him, or of any monarch until after the flood; whereof the first was Nimrod, the mighty hunter, who, as Milton expresseth it, made men, and not beasts, his prey; for men were easier caught by promises, and subdued by the folly or treachery of their own species; whereas the brutes prevailed only by their courage or strength, which, among them, are peculiar to certain kinds. Lions, bears, elephants, and some other animals, are strong or valiant; and their species never degenerates in their native soil, except they happen to be enslaved or destroyed by human fraud; but men degenerate every day, merely by the folly, the perverseness, the avarice, the tyranny, the pride, the treachery, or inhumanity of their own kind.
TRACTS, RELIGIOUS AND MISCELLANEOUS.
TO PROVE THAT THE ABOLISHING OF
CHRISTIANITY IN ENGLAND MAY, AS THINGS NOW STAND, BE ATTENDED WITH SOME INCONVENIENCES, AND PERHAPS NOT PRODUCE THOSE MANY GOOD EFFECTS PROPOSED THEREBY,a
I AM very sensible what a weakness and presumption. it is to reason against the general humour and disposition of the world. I remember it was, with great justice, and due regard to the freedom both of the public and the press, forbidden, upon several penalties, to write, or discourse, or lay wagers against the Union, even before it was confirmed by parliament; because that was looked upon as a design to oppose the current of the people, which, beside the folly of it, is a manifest breach of the fundamental law, that makes this majority of opinion the voice of God. In like manner, and for the very same reasons, it may perhaps be neither safe nor prudent to argue against the abolishing of Christianity, at a juncture when all parties appear so unanimously determined upon the point, as we cannot but allow from their actions, their discourses, and their writings. However, I know not how, whether from the affectation of singularity, or the perverseness of human nature, but so it unhappily falls out, that I cannot be entirely of this opinion. Nay, though I were sure an order were issued for my immediate prosecution by the attorney-general, I should still confess that, in the present posture of our affairs at home or abroad, I do not yet see the absolute necessity of extirpating the Christian religion from among us.
This perhaps may appear too great a paradox even for our wise and paradoxical age to endure; therefore I shall handle it with all tenderness, and with the utmost deference to that great and profound majority which is of another sentiment.
And yet the curious may please to observe how much the genius of a nation is liable to alter in half an age: I have heard it affirmed for certain, by some very old people, that the contrary opinion was, even in their memories, as much in vogue as the other is now; and that a project for the abolishing of Christianity would then have appeared as singular, and been thought as absurd, as it would be, at this time, to write or discourse in its defence.
Therefore I freely own that all appearances are a This is a very happy and judicious idea -JOHNSON.
against me. The system of the gospel, after the fate of other systems, is generally antiquated and exploded: and the mass or body of the common people, among whom it seems to have had its latest credit, are now grown as much ashamed of it as their betters; opinions like fashions always descending from those of quality to the middle sort, and thence to the vulgar, where at length they are dropped and vanish.
But here I would not be mistaken, and must therefore be so bold as to borrow a distinction from the writers on the other side, when they make a difference between nominal and real Trinitarians. I hope no reader imagines me so weak to stand up in the defence of real Christianity, such as used in primitive times, (if we may believe the authors of those ages,) to have an influence upon men's belief and actions: to offer at the restoring of that would indeed be a wild project; it would be to dig up foundations; to destroy at one blow all the wit and half the learning of the kingdom; to break the entire frame and constitution of things; to ruin trade, extinguish arts and sciences, with the professors of them; in short, to turn our courts, exchanges, and shops into deserts; and would be full as absurd as the proposal of Horace, where he advises the Romans all in a body to leave their city, and seek a new seat in some remote part of the world, by way of cure for the corruption of their mauners.
Therefore I think this caution was in itself altogether unnecessary, (which I have inserted only to prevent all possibility of cavilling,) since every candid reader will easily understand my discourse to be intended only in defence of nominal Christianity; the other having been for some time wholly laid aside by general consent, as utterly inconsistent with our present schemes of wealth and power.
But why we should therefore cast off the name and title of Christians, although the general opinion and resolution be so violent for it, I confess I cannot (with submission) apprehend, nor is the consequence necessary. However, since the undertakers propose such wonderful advantages to the nation by this project, and advance many plausible objections against the system of Christianity, I shall briefly consider the strength of both, fairly allow them their greatest weight, and offer such answers as I think most reasonable. After which I will beg leave to show what inconveniences may possibly happen by such an innovation, in the present posture of our affairs.
First, one great advantage proposed by the abolishing
of Christianity is, that it would very much enlarge and establish liberty of conscience, that great bulwark of our nation, and of the Protestant religion; which is still too much limited by priestcraft, notwithstanding all the good intentions of the legislature, as we have lately found by a severe instance. For it is confidently reported that two young gentlemen of real hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who, upon a thorough examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural abilities, without the least tincture of learning, having made a discovery that there was no God, and generously communicating their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an unparallelled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for blasphemy. And as it has been wisely observed, if persecution once begins, no man alive knows how far it may reach or where it will end.
In answer to all which, with deference to wiser judgments, I think this rather shows the necessity of a nominal religion among us. Great wits love to be free with the highest objects; and if they cannot be allowed a God to revile or renounce, they will speak evil of dignities, abuse the government, and reflect upon the ministry; which I am sure few will deny to be of much more pernicious consequence, according to the saying of Tiberius, deorum offensa diis curæ. As to the particular fact related, I think it is not fair to argue from one instance, perhaps another cannot be produced: yet (to the comfort of all those who may be apprehensive of persecution) blasphemy, we know, is freely spoken a million of times in every coffeehouse and tavern, or wherever else good company meet. It must be allowed indeed that, to break an English free-born officer only for blasphemy was, to speak the gentlest of such an action, a very high strain of absolute power. Little can be said in excuse for the general: perhaps he was afraid it might give offence to the allies, among whom, for aught we know, it may be the custom of the country to believe a God. But if he argued, as some have done, upon a mistaken principle, that an officer who is guilty of speaking blasphemy may some time or other proceed so far as to raise a mutiny, the consequence is by no means to be admitted; for surely the commander of an English army is likely to be but ill obeyed whose soldiers fear and reverence him as little as they do a Deity.
It is further objected against the gospel system, that it obliges men to the belief of things too difficult for freethinkers, and such who have shaken off the prejudices that usually cling to a confined education. To which I answer, that men should be cautious how they raise objections which reflect upon the wisdom of the nation. Is not everybody freely allowed to believe whatever he pleases, and to publish his belief to the world whenever he thinks fit, especially if it serves to strengthen the party which is in the right? Would any indifferent foreigner, who should read the trumpery lately written by Asgil, Tindal, Toland, Coward, and forty more, imagine the gospel to be our rule of faith, and confirmed by parliaments? Does any man either believe, or say he believes, or desire to have it thought that he says he believes, one syllable of the matter? And is any man worse received upon that score, or does he find his want of nominal faith a disadvantage to him in the pursuit of any civil or military employment? What if there be an old dormant statute or two against him, are they not now obsolete to a degree, that Epsom and Dudley themselves, if they were now alive, would find it impossible to put them in execution?
It is likewise urged that there are, by computation, in this kingdom, above ten thousand parsons, whose revenues, added to those of my lords the bishops,
would suffice to maintain at least two hundred young gentlemen of wit and pleasure, and freethinking, enemies to priestcraft, narrow principles, pedantry, and prejudices, who might be an ornament to the court and town and then again, so great a number of able [bodied] divines might be a recruit to our fleet and armies. This indeed appears to be a consideration of some weight; but then, on the other side, several things deserve to be considered likewise: as first, whether it may not be thought necessary that in certain tracts of country, like what we call parishes, there shall be one man at least of abilities to read and write. Then it seems a wrong computation, that the revenues of the church throughout this island would be large enough to maintain two hundred young gentlemen, or even half that number, after the present refined way of living; that is, to allow each of them such a rent as, in the modern form of speech, would make them easy. But still there is in this project a greater mischief behind; and we ought to beware of the woman's folly, who killed the hen that every morning laid her a golden egg. For, pray what would become of the race of men in the next age, if we had nothing to trust to beside the scrofulous, consumptive productions furnished by our men of wit and pleasure, when, having squandered away their vigour, health, and estates, they are forced, by some disagreeable marriage, to piece up their broken fortunes, and entail rottenness and politeness on their posterity? Now, here are ten thousand persons reduced, by the wise regulations of Henry VIII., to the necessity of a low diet and moderate exercise, who are the only great restorers of our breed, without which the nation would in an age or two become one great hospital.
Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity is the clear gain of one day in seven, which is now entirely lost, and consequently the kingdom one-seventh less considerable in trade, business, and pleasure; besides the loss to the public of so many stately structures, now in the hands of the clergy, which might be converted into play-houses, markethouses, exchanges, common dormitories, and other public edifices.
I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word, if I call this a perfect cavil. I readily own there has been an old custom, time out of mind, for people to assemble in the churches every Sunday, and that shops are still frequently shut, in order, as it is conceived, to preserve the memory of that ancient practice; but how this can prove a hinderance to business or pleasure is hard to imagine. What if the men of pleasure are forced, one day in the week, to game at home instead of the chocolate-houses? are not the taverns and coffee-houses open? can there be a more convenient season for taking a dose of physic? are fewer claps got upon Sundays than other days? is not that the chief day for traders to sum up the accounts of the week, and for lawyers to prepare their briefs? But I would fain know how it can be pretended that the churches are misapplied? where are more appointments and rendezvouses of gallantry? where more care to appear in the foremost box, with greater advantage of dress? where more meetings for business? where more bargains driven of all sorts? and where so many conveniences or encitements to sleep?
There is one advantage greater than any of the foregoing proposed by the abolishing of Christianity; that it will utterly extinguish parties among us, by removing those factious distinctions of high and low church, of Whig and Tory, Presbyterian and Church of England, which are now so many grievous clogs upon public proceedings, and are apt to dispose men to prefer the gratifying of themselves, or depressing of their adversaries, before the most important interests of the state.