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The work of reformation, in church and in state, hath long been agitated; and, doubtless, there are many things in both, that may well be thought to want it. Some however, averse from reforming, think it more expedient to temporize with prevailing manners and customs, and would rather acquiesce under, than attempt a correction of, the numerous irregularities and evils with which we abound. This may be just and good, as well as wise and politic, in certain situations : yet, if we mean any thing when we talk of human perfection and human happiness, it must surely be right to correct errors and abuses; nor can reformation possibly be deemed unreasonable, always provided, that the reformers, amidst their zeal, will ponder well the inaterials, the stuff, they have to work upont; lest, being hurried on by visions, and ideas of a perfection not to be attained, they produce greater evils than those they would remove.
In the last century, by pushing the spirit of reforming too far, greater evils were produced than the reformers had it in their view to remove. Resistance was made to the encroachments of regal power, and made successfully; but did the spirit of reforming rest here? No; it proceeded till the monarchy was destroyed. And what followed then ? Why, anarchy succeeded monarchy; a republic, such as it was, succeeded anarchy; a proteca torate succeeded a republic; and, finally, the nation, having reeled to and fro from one form of government to another, and having found no rest under any, recurred at length to a monarchy, more arbitrary even with their own consent, and more pernicious in its consequences, than that which had been abolished. But to proceed,
The objects of reformation are, manners, opinions, and establishments. On the article of manners, enough has been written : enough to shew, that manners cannot be reformed by laws, but only by education, or an esta
* From the Irenarch.
+ Mens humana, si ugat in materiam, naturam rerum contemplando, pro modo materiæ operatur, atque ab eadem determinatur. Bacon.-And is not this as necessary in the world of spirit, as in the world of matter? VOL. II.
blished system of early discipline. With regard to opinions, I am free to own, with Mr. Bayle, that “there are no truths so minute, but what are worthy to be promoted; no errors so trifling, but what had better be corrected than retained. But, when the circumstances of time and place will not suffer novelties to be proposed, though ever so true, without occasioning a thousand disa orders,” I must also concur with Mr. Bayle in supposing, that it were much better to let things remain as they are, than undertake to reform them; since the remedy would be worse than the disease.” To which I
add, that, after all the reformation which can be made, every man will have, because every man must have, his own opinion still. I douvapadia is defined by a certain physican humorum illud peculiare temperamentum, unde sua est cuique sanitas, suus crique morbus : and might he not have added, if his subject had required it, sua cuique in. doles, sua cuique OPỈNIO ?--To suppose that any man should think as I do, is to suppose that man organized as I am ; that he has received 'the same temperament, the same nutriment, the same education, and (which includes all) the same modification, with me, in every instant of his duration : in one word, it is to suppose, that he is what I am. Why not expect from him a conformity of features, as well as a conformity of opinions, with mine? the former, as should seem, being just as much in his power, as the latter,
With regard to establishments, I suppose myself to dissent from those, whom the spirit of reforming agitates the most, only in this ; that, whereas they would have the principle of reformation to operate at all times, and in all situations of things, I would limit and contine it to certain times, and certain conjunctures. « There is a time for all things," says a great reformer: “it is not every conjuncture which calls with equal force upon the activity of honest men ; but critical exigencies now and then arise (t)": As therefore, on the one hand, I would not, with a Leviathan spirit assert the rectitude of maintaining at all events whatever was established ; so, on the other, I would as
(+) Mr. Burke.--See to what an extent Erasmus carried the idea of waiting for conjunctures, in the business of reforming religion. Șcio quidvis esse ferendum potius, quam ut publicus orbis status turbetur in pejus : scio pietatem esse nonnunquam celare veritatem ; neque eam quoviar Loco, neque quovis tempore, neque apud quosvis, neque quouis modo, neque totam ubique promendam. Epist, 50).
sert the wisdom and expediency of tolerating, not only imperfections, but even evils, in an establishment, until those evils can be removed without producing greater. And I seem to assert this upon the surest foundation; because the principle of reformation, unless restrained by this qualifying clause, will never suffer the world to remain in quiet. As surely as no establishment can be perfect, so surely will reformers never be wanting to disturb it *. I know the difficulty of ascertaining the crisis, when reformation is to commence;- this must be determined by the circumstances of time and place—yet I cannot forbear tu think as I do: and, if I am in error, it must be my love of peace and good order that has misled me. “Very inany persons,” says Mr. Bayle, “ will inflexibly adhere to this maxim, that it is a lesser evil to bear with abuses in church and state, than to cure them by remedies which will overturn the constitution in church and state t." I must own myself to be one of these persons : and am ready to say, with the good Bishop Hall, that some quiet error may be better than some unruly truth ||; or, as Erasmus had said before him, mihi adeo est invisa discordia, ut veritas etiam displiceat seditiosa.
But it should seem, as if reformations in the state were far more easy and far more practicable, than reformations in the church ; and, accordingly, a worthy person some years ago exhibited a plan, very elaborately drawn, for parliamentary independency and economical reformation I. I was affected with uncommon pleasure at the report of this plan, which (I thought) was striking directly at the root of the thing: for true patriotism, as a great states
* The world can never remain in peace, because sectaries and fanatics will every where think it a duty to disturb it :
And prove their doctrine orthodox
HUDIBRAS. + Dict. CASTELLANUS. Note Q.
Decad. VI. Epist. 7.
man observed most justly, can have no foundation, but frugality * ; and vain will be all attempts to render Members of Parliament independent, till they can be cured of their extravagancies, and prevailed on to be occonomists. But, to my very great grief as well as surprise, the plan of reformation he proposed, had no respect at all to the oeconomy of parliament men, but only to the expences of certain departments, connected with and dependant on the court'; as if great and important savings might thence have been made to the nation. Too great savings cannot be made to the nation ; the nation stands in need of all that can be saved: and what Mr. Burke advanced, under this general idea, had a real foundation in reason and equity. I only doubt, whether the honourable gentleman, in pursuing this idea, did not contemplate upon too small ascale, when he would have reduced the expences of royalty to the accuracy and precision of private oeconomy. I doubt, also, whether the savings from this reduction would have been indeed of such capital and essential importance, as was imagined. And, lastly, I doubt most of all, whether, with our present manners, even government itself could make the reformation proposed; that is whether such reformation be really practicable.
But here, Mr. Burke hath been before us : “I know,' says he, “it is cornmon for men to say, that such and such things are perfectly right, -very desirable, but unfortunately not practicable, Oh, no, Sir, no: those things, which are not practicable, are not desirable. p" Indeed? But, is not parliamentary independency desirable; and does it thence follow, that it is attainable ? Parliamentary independency must he according to parliamentary manners; which, if we may trust the representations of those who knew them well, are by no means favourable to it, at present. The late Lord Chesterfield, speaking of Sir Robert Walpole, delivers himself thus: “Money was the chief engine of his administration, and he employed it with a success, which in a manner disgraced humanity, He was not, it is true, the inventor of that shameful method of governing, which had been gaining ground insensibly ever since Charles II. ; but, with uncommon skill and unbounded profusion, he
# Lord Bath in Swift's Letters, if Speech, &c.
brought it to that perfection, which at this time dishonours and distresses this country, and which, if not checked (and God knows how it can be checked) must ruin it*.” The late Lord Bath, apologizing to Swift tor desisting “to struggle against corruption," declared “ the whole nation to be so abandoned and corrapt, that the Crown can never fail of a majority in both Houses of Parliament.--I am convinced,” says he, “ that our constitution is already gone; and we are idly struggling to maintain, what in truth has been long losit.”
Now, are things really so as these noble Lords have represented them, or are they not ? for we presume not to decide. If they be so, why then, surely, this reformation in parliament, so confessedly desirable, is not, however, so confessedly practicable ll. And whence, after all, should independency arise; or, were it once upon its legs, how support itself? “ Can a nation, venal, vicious, and corrupt, long preserve its liberty ? Liberty, to be relished and preserved, requires noble, brave, and virtuous souls: otherwise, it degenerates into licentiousness, and ends by becoming the prey of a master who can purchase it. A people, without manners, is not made to be free: true liberty must be accompanied with a love of equity, humanity, a deep sense of the naturat rights of men. Feelings of this kind can only be the fruits of a liberal and virtuous education; far different from that narrow and servile mode of educating, which now prevails in every country. What then can be wanting to complete the happiness of a people, who glory in the best and freest constitution? What remains to be desired by a nation, into whose ports the riches of the world find their way? This remains to be desired : a generous education, integrity of manners, true notions of justice; in a word, dispositions and appetites, opposite to that ardent and unquenchable thirst after filthy lucre,
* Characters, &c. + Swift's Letters.
|| No discouragement is here meant to any attempt towards reformation : duty as well as policy should put us upon reforming whatever can be reformed. We may moderate evils, if we cannot remove them : and this perhaps is all, the worthy person aimed at ;, governing himself by the old rule,“ of asking too much, in order to obtain enough”-iniquum petere, ut æquum ferat, Quintil. IV. 51