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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 confirm 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 com
, mon 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.
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 pagsion, 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 true 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, without entering 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
sent upon a wild speculative project, but such a one as may be easily put in execution.
For, while the prerogative of giving all employments continues in the crown, either immediately, or by subordination, it is in the power of the prince to make piety and virtue become the fashion of the age, if, at the same time, he would make them necessary qualifications for favour and preferment.
It is clear from present experience, that the bare example of the best prince will not have any mighty influence, where the age is very corrupt. For, when was there ever a better prince on the throne, than the present queen ? I do not talk of her talent for government, her love of the people, or any other qualities that are purely regal; but her piety, charity, temperance, conjugal love, and whatever other virtues do best adorn a private life; wherein, without question or flattery, she has no superior : yet, neither will it be satire or peevish invective to affirm, that infidelity and vice are not much diminished since her coming to the crown, nor will, in all probability, till more effectual remedies be provided.
Thus human nature seems to lie under the disadvantage, that the example alone of a vicious prince, will in time corrupt an age; but the example of a good one, will not be sufficient to reform it without farther endeavours. Princes must therefore supply this defect by a vigorous exercise of that authority, which the law has left them; by making it every man's interest and honour, to cultivate religion and virtue; by rendering vice a disgrace, and the certain ruin to preferment or pretensions: all which they should first attempt in their own courts and families. For instance, might not the queen's domestics of
the middle and lower sort, be obliged, upon penalty of suspension or loss of their employments, to a constant weekly attendance at least on the service of the church; to a decent behaviour in it; to receive the sacrament four times in the year; to avoid swearing and irreligious prophane discourses ; and to the appearance at least, of temperance and chastity ? Might not the care of all this be committed to the strict inspection of
proper officers ? Might not those of higher rank, and nearer access to her majesty's person, receive her own commands to the same purpose, and he countenanced, or disfavoured, according as they obey? Might not the queen lay her injunctions on the bishops, and other great men of undoubted piety, to make diligent inquiry, and give her notice, if any person about her should happen to be of libertine principles or morals? Might not all those who enter upon any office in her majesty's family, be obliged to take an oath parallel with that against simony, which is administered to the clergy? It is not to be doubted, but that if these, or the like proceedings, were duly observed, morality and religion would soon become fashionable court virtues, and be taken up as the only methods to get or keep employments there; which alone would have mighty influence upon many of the nobility and principal gentry.
But, if the like methods were pursued as far as possible, with regard to those, who are in the great employments of state, it is hard to conceive how general a reformation they might in time produce among us. For, if piety and virtue were once reckoned qualifications necessary to preferment, every man thus endowed, when put into great stations, would readily imitate the queen's example, in the distribution of all offices in his