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AN ESTIMATE

OF

THE MANNERS OF THE PRESENT TIMES.

{PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1782.]

1. Some years ago an ingenious man published a treatise with this title. According to him, the characteristics of the English at present are sloth and luxury. And thus much we may allow, that neither the one nor the other ever abounded in England as they do at this day. With regard to sloth, it was the constant custom of our ancestors to rise at four in the morning. This was the stated hour, summer and winter, for all that were in health. The two houses of parliament met “at five;"> horâ quinta antemerediana, (at five o'clock in the morning,] says their Journal. But how is it with people of fashion now? They can hardly huddle on their clothes before eight or nine o'clock in the morning; perhaps some of them not before twelve. And when they are risen, what do they do?

They waste away in gentle inactivity the day. How many are so far from working with their hands, that they can scarce set a foot to the ground! How many, even young, healthy men, are too lazy either to walk or ride! They must loll in their carriages day by day; and these can scarce be made easy enough! And must not the minor gentry have their coaches too? Yea, if they only ride on the outside. See here the grand cause (together with intemperance) of our innumerable nervous complaints! For how imper ctly do either medicines or the cold bath supply the place of exercise! without which the human body can no more continue in health than without sleep or food.

2. We allow likewise the abundant increase of luxury, both in meat, drink, dress, and furniture. What an amazing profusion of food do we see, not only at a nobleman's table, but at an ordinary city entertainment; suppose of the shoemakers' or tailors' company! What variety of wines, instead of the good, home-brewed ale, used by our forefathers! What luxury of apparel, changing like the moon, in the city and country, as well as at court! What superfluity of expensive furniture glitters in all our great men's houses! And luxury naturally increases sloth, unfitting us for exercise either of body or mind. Sloth, on the other hand, by destroying the appetite, leads to still farther luxury. And how many does a regular kind of luxury betray at last into gluttony and drunkenness; yea, and lewdness too of every kind; which indeed is hardly separable from them!

3. But allowing all these things, still this is not a true estimate of the present manners of the English nation. For whatever is the characteristic of a nation, is, First, universal, found in all the individuals of it, or at least in so very great a majority, that the exceptions are not worth regarding. It is, Secondly, constant, found not only now and then, but continually, without intermission; and, Thirdly, peculiar to that nation, in contradistinction to all others. But neither luxury nor sloth is either universal or constant in England, much less peculiar to it.

4. Whatever may be the case of many of the nobility and gentry

war.

(the whole body of whom are not a twentieth part of the nation,) it is by no means true, that the English in general, much less universally, are a slothful people. There are not only some gentlemen, yea, and noblemen, who are of the ancient stamp, who are patterns of industry in their calling to all that are round about them, but it is undeniable that a vast majority of the middle and lower ranks of people are diligently employed from morning to night, and from the beginning to the end of the year. And indeed those who are best acquainted with other nations, will not scruple to testify, that the bulk of the English, are at this day as diligent as any people in the universe.

5. Neither is sloth the constant, any more than the universal, character of the English nation. Upon many occasions even those that are most infected with it arise and shake themselves from the dust. Witness the behaviour of those of the highest rank, when they were engaged in

Did any one charge sloth on the late Duke of Marlborough, or the Marquis of Granby? Witness the behaviour of many eminent men in the militia, setting an example to all their troops! Yea, some of them were neither afraid nor ashamed to march on foot at the head of their men!

6. Least of all is sloth peculiar to the English nation. Is there no such thing even in Holland ? Is there none in Germany? Certainly there is enough of it, and to spare, in every part of France; and yet there is a more abundant harvest of it both in Italy, Spain, and Portugal: So utterly void of truth is that assertion, that sloth is the present characteristic of the English nation!

7. Neither is luxury. For it is not universal, no, nor general. The food which is used by nine-tenths of our nation is (as it ever was) plain and simple. A vast majority of the nation, if we take in all the living souls, are not only strangers to gluttony and drunkenness, but to delicacy either of meat or drink. Neither do they err in quantity any more than in quality, but take what nature requires, and no more.

8. And as luxury in food is not universal in England, so neither is luxury in apparel. Thousands in every part of the kingdom are utterly guiltless of it. Whether by choice or necessity, their dress is as plain as their food; and so is their furniture. We may farther affirm, that even lewdness is not yet universal in England; although we are making swift advances toward it, by play houses, masquerades, and pantheons.

9. And even where luxury in food and dress is most prevalent, yet it is not constant. Both the one and the other are laid aside, at particular seasons, even by gentlemen and noblemen. How many of these are, in time of war, regardless both of food and apparel! Yea, what a contempt of both did they show even during the shadow of war, while they lay encamped in various parts of the kingdom!

10. Neither is luxury peculiar to the English nation. What is our luxury in dress to that of the French? And luxury in food is carried to as great a height even in Germany; and to a much greater in France: The French scorn to stand on a level herein with the dull Germans. In the northern kingdoms, too, there are as many gluttons

in ours, and at least as many drunkards. And as to the basest branch of luxury, if we may give credit to eye-witnesses, (I cite Dr. Johnson in particular, and Lady Mary Wortley Montague,) what is all the lewdness of Lon

don, to that of Vienna, Paris, Rome, and all the large cities of Italy? English ladies are not attended by their cicisbys yet; nor would any English husband suffer it. So that, bad as we are, we are sober and temperate, yea, and modest, in comparison of our neighbours.

11. But if sloth and luxury are not, what is the present characteristic of the English nation?

It is ungodliness. This is at present the characteristic of the English nation. Ungodliness is our universal, our constant, our peculiar chaTacter.

I do not mean Deism; the pot assenting to revealed religion. No; a Deist is a respectable character, compared to an ungodly man.

But by ungodliness I mean, First, a total ignorance of God; Secondly, a total contempt of him.

12. And, First, a total ignorance of God is almost universal among us. The exceptions are exceeding few, whether among the learned or unlearned. High and low, cobblers, tinkers, hackney-coachmen, men and maid servants, soldiers, sailors, tradesmen of all ranks, lawyers, physicians, gentlemen, lords, are as ignorant of the Creator of the world as Mohammedans or Pagans. They look up to that " brave o'er-hanged firmament, fretted with golden fires ;" they see the moon walking in brightness, the sun on his meridian throne; they look round on the various furniture of the earth, herbs, flowers, trees, in all their beauty ; and coolly ascribe all to nature, without having any idea affixed to the word. Should you seriously ask them, What is nature ? they know not how to answer. Perhaps they will say, “Why, it is the course of things, that always was and always will be.” Always was! Then you assert that the present course of things was from eternity. If so, the world is eternal; either then there are two eternals, or there is no God!

13. So much the good people of England in general know of God their Creator ! And high and low, from the meanest peasant to the gayest butterfly at court, know just as much of God their Governor. They know not, they do not in the least suspect, that he governs the world he has made ; that he is the supreme and absolute Disposer of all things both in heaven and earth. A poor Heathen (though a consul, a prime minister) knew Deorum providentia cuncta geri; that “ the providence of God directs all things.” Providence ! What is that? Do you know any thing about it?

“Yes I do ;

I

never denied a general providence.” A general providence! What do you mean? What is a general that includes no particulars? What is a whole that does not contain any parts ? It is a self-contradiction, it is arrant nonsense. Either, therefore, allow a particular providence, or do not pretend to believe any providence at all. If you do not believe that the Governor of the world governs all things in it, small and great ; that fire and hail, snow and vapour, wind and storm, fulfil his word ; that he rules kingdoms and cities, fleets and armies, and all the individuals whereof they are composed ; (and yet without forcing the wills of men, or necessitating any of their actions ;) do not affect to believe that he governs any thing, or has any thing to do in the world. No; be consistent with yourself: Say that, as nature produced, so chance governs, all things. At least, if you must, for decency's sake, acknowledge a kind of God, maintain that,

Since he gave things their beginning,

And set this whirligig a spinning, he left it, and every thing therein, to spin on in its own way.

14. Whether this is right or no, it is almost the universal sentiment of the English nation. And if high and low are so totally ignorant of God their Governor, are they likely to know any more of God their Redeemer, or of God their Judge, who will shortly reward every man according to his works? In very deed, God is not in all their thoughts; they do not think of him from morning to night. Whether they are forming particular or national schemes, God has no place therein. They do not take God into their account; they can do their whole business without him; without considering whether there be any God in the world; or whether he has any share in the management of it.

15. And whatever be the event of their undertakings, whether they have good or ill success, they do not suppose God to have any part either in the ove or the other. They take it for granted, that the race is to the swift, and the battle to the strong. Therefore, if things succeed well

, they give no praise to God, but to the conduct of their general, and the courage of their men. And if they succeed ill, they do not see the hand of God, but impute all to natural causes.

16. The English in general high and low, rich and poor, do not speak of God. They do not say any thing about him, from day to day, from week to week, from year to year. They talk of any thing beside; they are not so squeamish as the old poet, who would not spend his breath in talking

De villis, domibusve alienis;

Nec male necne Lepos saltel. [About other people's country seats, or mansions; nor whether Lepos dance

well or ill.] We talk indifferently on every thing that comes in the way; on every thing—but God. If any one were to name him in good company, with any degree of seriousness, suppose at a gentleman or nobleman's table, would not they all stand aghast? Would not a profound silence ensue, till some one started a more agreeable subject ?

17. Again : A vast majority of the English live in the constant neglect of the worship of God. To form a judgment of this, you may take a specimen in the good city of London. How few of the inhabitants worship God in public, even one day in a week! Do not yet fewer of them make a conscience of worshipping God in their families ? And perhaps they are a still smaller number that daily worship God in their closets. Such, if we acknowledge the truth, is the general, constant ungodliness of the English nation!

18. But negative ungodliness (so to speak) is the least exceptionsole part of our character. Proceed we then to the positive ungodiness, which overflows every part of our land.

The first branch of this positive ungodliness, and such as shows an utter contempt of God, is perjury. And to this the common people are strongly tempted in our public courts of justice, by the shocking manner wherein oaths are usually administered there, contrary to all sense and decency. Forty years ago, (and perhaps it may be so still,) when an oath was administered in the court of Savannah in Georgia, the judge

with all on the bench rose up, and stood uncovered while it was administering; and none moved his foot, or uttered a word, till they sat down again. Has not every English judge power to introduce the same solemnity into every court where he presides ? Certainly he has. And if he does not exert that power, he is inexcusable before God and man.

19. Till this is done, our shameless manner of administering oaths will increase the constant perjuries in our nation. They are farther increased by our multiplying oaths to such an amazing degree; and that on the slightest occasions. Hence perjury infects the whole nation. It is constant, from month to month, from year to year. And it is a glory which no nation divides with us; it is peculiar to ourselves. There is nothing like it to be found in any other (Christian or Heathen) nation under heaven.

20. To descend to particulars would be tedious: Suffice it to observe in general, there are exceeding few justices of the peace, mayors of corporations, sheriffs, constables, or churchwardens; exceeding few officers of the customs, the excise, or any public office whatever, who are not constantly perjured, taking oaths which they never intend to keep. Add to these, thousands, yea, myriads of the voters at elections, particularly for members of parliament: add thousands of the students in each university, who swear to a book of statutes, which they never read, which most of them never design to read, and much less to observe: then judge whether there be any nation on the face of the earth, which can vie with the English in perjury!

21. There is one other species of ungodliness, which is, if possible, still more general among us; which is also constant, being to be heard in every street every day in the year; and which is quite peculiar to our nation, to England, and its dependencies ; namely, the stupid, senseless, shameless, ungodliness of taking the name of God in vain. Where in the habitable world do the people so continually pray the great God to “ damn their souls ?” Where else do they so blaspheme the Majesty of Heaven? so idly swear by the name of God? Some wretched gentlemen (so called) set the example, which the small vulgar readily follow. And these curses and oaths they pour out wantonly, without any provocation; and desperately, without any remorse. Let those who are acquainted with ancient and modern history say, whether there is or ever was any Heathen nation wherein such a total contempt of God, such horrid ungodliness, so generally and constantly prevailed!

22. Seo then, Englishmen, what is the undoubted characteristic of our nation; it is ungodliness. True, it was not always so: for many ages we had as much of the fear of God as our neighbours. But in the last age, many who were absolute strangers to this, made so large a profession of it, that the nation in general was surfeited, and, at the Restoration, ran headlong from one extreme to the other. It was then ingodliness broke in upon us as a flood; and when shall its dire waves he stayed ?

23. Countrymen, is ungodliness any honour to our nation? Let men of reason judge. Is this outraging the greatest and best of Beings, a thing honourable in itself ? Surely you cannot think so. Does it gain us any honour in the eyes of other nations ? Nay, just the contrary. Some of them abhor the very name of Englishmen, others despise us, on

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