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ledge they have none, unless in religion. And how much do they know of this ? A little more than the Hottentots and not much. They know the names of God, and Christ, and the Virgin Mary. They know a little of St. Patrick, the pope, and the priest : how to tell their beads, to say Ave Maria and Pater Noster : to do what penance they are bid, to hear mass, confess, and pay so much for the pardon of their sins. But as to the nature of religion, the life of God in the soul, they know no more (I will not say, than the priest, but) than the beasts of the field.
And how very little above these are the numerous inhabitants of the northern parts of Scotland, or of the islands which lie either on the west, or the north side of that kingdom! What knowledge have these? And what religion? Their religion usually lies in a single point, in implicitly believing the head of their clan, and implicitly doing what he bids.* Meantime they are, one and all, as ignorant of rational, scriptural religion as of Algebra ; and altogether as far from the practice, as from the theory of it.
But it is not so in England. The very lowest of the people are here better instructed.' I should be right glad to find it so: but I doubt a fair trial will shew the contrary. I am afraid we may still say, of thousands, myriads of peasants, men, women, and children, throughout our nation,
Wild as the untaught Indian's brood,
The Christian savages remain ;
They make thee spend thy blood in vain.'
* By a late act of parliament, there is an happy alteration made in this particular,
true religion? And he is no more able to give you an intelligible answer, than if you were to ask him about the North-east Passage. Is there then any possibility that they should practise what they know nothing of?' If religion is not even in their heads, can it be in their hearts or lives? It cannot. Nor is there the least savour thereof, either in their tempers or conversation. Neither in the one nor the other do they rise one jot above the pitch of a Turk or an Heathen.
Perhaps it will be said, Whatever the clowns in the midland counties are, the people near the sea-coasts are more civilized.” Yes, great numbers of them are, in and near all our ports : many thousands there are civilized by smuggling. The numbers concerned herein upon all our coasts, are far greater than can be imagined. But what reason, and what religion have these that trample on all laws, divine and human, by a course of thieving, or receiving stolen goods, of plundering their king and country? I say king and country : seeing whatever is taken from the king, is in effect taken from the country, 'who are obliged to make
all deficiencies in the royal revenue. These are therefore general robbers. They rob you and me, and every one of their countrymen : seeing had the king his due customs, a great part of our taxes might be spared. A smuggler then, (and in proportion every seller or buyer of uncustomed goods,) is a thief of the first order, a highwayman or pickpocket of the worst sort. Let not any of those prate about reason or religion. It is an amazing instance of human folly, that every government in Europe does not drive these vermin away into lands not inhabited.
We are all indebted to those detachments of the army, which have cleared some of our coasts of these public nui.
And indeed many of that body have, in several respects, deserved well of their country. Yet can we say of the soldiery in general, that they are men of reason and religion? I fear not. Are not the bulk of them void of almost all knowledge, divine and human? And is their virtue more eminent than their knowledge? But I spare
them. May God be merciful to them ! May he be glorified by their reformation, rather than their destruction!
Is there any more knowledge or virtue in that body of men (some hundreds of thousands) the English sailors 2 Surely not. It is not without cause, that a ship has been called a floating hell.
What power, what form of religion is to be found in nine out of ten, shall I say? Or ninety-nine out of a hundred, either of our merchantmen or men of war? What do the men in them think or know about religion? What do they practise ? Either sailors or marines ? I doubt whether any Heathen sailors, in any country or age, Greek, Roman, or Barbarian, ever came up to ours, for profound ignorance and barefaced, shameless, shocking impiety. Add to these, out of our renowned metropolis, the whole brood of porters, draymen, carmen, hackney-coachmen, and I am sorry to say, noblemen and gentlemen's footmen, (together making up some thousands,) and you will have such a collection of knowing and pious Christians as all Europe cannot exceed. !
But all men are not like these.' No, it is pity they should. And yet how little better are the retailers of brandy or gio, the inhabitants of blind ale-houses, the oyster-women, fish-wives, and other good creatures about Billingsgate, and the various clans of pedlars and hawkers, that patrol through the streets, or ply in Ragfair, and other places of public resort. These likewise amount to several thousands, even within the Bills of Mortality. And what knowledge have they? What religion are they of? What morality do they practise ?
But these have had no advantage of education, many of them scarcely being able to write or read.' Proceed we then to those who have had these advantages, the oficers of the excise and customs. Are these, in general, men of reason? Who think with clearness and connection, and speak pertinently on a given subject ? Are they men of religion ? Sober, temperate ? Fearing God, and working righteousness? Having a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man? How many do yo ufind of this
kind among them? Men that fear an oath, that fear perjury more than death? That would die rather than neglect any part of that duty which they have sworn to perform? That would sooner be torn in pieces, than suffer any man, under any pretence, to defraud his majesty of his just right? How many of them will not be deterred from doing their duty, either by fear or favour? Regard no threatenings in the execution of their office, and accept no bribes, called presents. These only are wise and honest men. Set down all the rest as having neither religion nor sound reason.
“ But surely tradesmen have.” Some of them have both: and in an eminent degree. Some of our traders are an honour to the nation. But are the bulk of them so : Are a vast majority of our tradesmen, whether in town or coun. try, I will not say, religious, but honest men ? Who shall judge whether they are or not? Perhaps you think St. Paul is too strict. Let us appeal then to Cicero, an honesti Heathen. Now, when he is laying down rules of honesty between man and
proposes two cases. 1. Antisthenes brings a ship-load of corn to Rhodes, at a time of great scarcity. The Rhodians flock about him to buy. He knows that five other ships laden with corn will be there to-morrow. Ought he to tell the Rhodians this, before he sells his own corn: Undoubtedly he ought, says the Heathen. Otherwise he makes a gain of their ignorance, and so is no better than a thief or a robber.
2. A Roman nobleman comes to a gentleman to buy his house, who tells him, “There is another going to be built near it, which will darken the windows,” and on that account makes a deduction in the price. Some years after, the gentleman buys it of him again. Afterward he sues the nobleman for selling it without telling him first, that houses were built near, which darkened the windows. The nobleman pleads, “ I thought he knew it.” The judge asks, Did you tell him or not? And on his owning, he did not, determines, " This is contrary to the law, Ne quid dolo
Malo fial," (let nothing be done fraudulently,) and sentences bim immediately to pay back part of the price. Now, how
many of our tradesmen come up to the Heathen standard of honesty ? Who is clear of Dolus malus? Such fraud as the Roman judge would immediately have condemned? Which of our countrymen would not have sold his corn or other wares at the highest price he could? Who would have sunk his own market, by telling his customers there would be plenty the next day? Perhaps scarcely one in twenty. That one the Heathen would have allowed to be an honest man. And every one of the rest, according to his sentence, is no better than a thief or a robber.”
I must acknowledge, I once believed the body of English merchants to be men of the strictest honesty and honour. But I have lately. had more experience. Whoever wrongs the widow and fatherless, knows not what honour or honesty means. And how very few are there that will scruple this! I could relate many flagrant instances. But let one suffice. A merchant dies in the full course of a very extensive business. Another agrees with his widow, that provided she will recommend him to her late husband's correspondents, he will allow her yearly such a proportion of the profits of the trade. She does so, and articles are drawn, which she lodges with an eminent inan. This eminent man positively refuses to give them back to her; but gives them to the other merchant, and so leaves her entirely at his mercy. The consequence is, the other says, there is no profit at all. So he does not give her a groat. Now where is the honesty or honour, either of him who made the agreement, or of him who gave back the articles to him?
That there is honour, nay, and honesty to be found in another body of men, among the gentlemen of the Law, I firmly believe, whether Attorneys, Solicitors, or Counsellors. But are they not thinly spread? Do the generality of Attorneys, and Solicitors in Chancery, love their neighbour as themselves ? And do to others, what if the circumstance were changed) they would have others do to them?