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gion, endeared by manners, and adorned by

arts.

Let us now enquire what is the present state of these great fundamentals of social happiness, and whether any better period can be pointed out, compared to which their present state may be justly pronounced a state of declension.

The constitution of England has undergone many changes: The monarch, the nobles and the people, have cach in their turn for a time destroyed that proper balance, in which it's excellence confifts. In feudal times the aristocra. tic power preponderated, and the kingdom was torn to pieces with civil distractions. From the accession of Henry the Seventh to the breaking out of the great rebellion the power of the fovereign was all but absolute; the rapacity of that monarch, the brutality of his successor, the perfecuting spirit of Mary, and the imperious prerogative of Elizabeth left scarce a shadow of freedom in the people; and, in spite of all the boasted glories of Elizabeth's golden days, I must doubt if any nation can be happy, whose lives and properties were no better secured than those of her subjects actually were: In all this period the most tranquil moments are to be found in the peaceful reign of James the First; yet even then the king's jus divinum was at it's

height,

1

height, and totally overturned the scale and equipoise of the conftitution. What followed in Charles's day I need not dwell upon; a revolution ensued; monarchy was fhaken to it's foundations, and in the general fermentation and concussion of affairs the very dregs of the people were thrown

up
into
-power,

and all was anarchy, slaughter and oppression. From the Restoration to the Revolution we contemplate a period full of trouble, and, for the most part, stained with the deepest disgrace; a pensioned monarch, an abandoned court, and a licentious people: The abdication, or, more properly, the expulsion of a royal bigot, set the constitution upon it's bottom, but it left the minds of men in a ferment that could not speedily subside ; antient loyalty and high monarchical principles were not to be filenced at once by the peremptory fiat of an act of parliament; men still harboured them in their hearts, and popery, three times expelled, was still upon the watch, and secretly whetting her weapons for a fourth attempt. Was this a period of social happiness ? _The succession of the house of Hanover still left a pretender to the throne; and though the character of the new so. vereign had every requisite of temper and judgment for conciliating his government, yet the old leaven was not exhausted, fresh revolutions

B 3

were

were attempted and the nation felt a painful repetition of it's former forrows.

So far therefore as the happiness of society depends upon the secure establishment of the conftitution, the just administration of the laws, the strict and correct ascertainment of the subjects rights, and those facred and inviolable privileges as to person and property, which every man amongst us can now define, and no man living dares to dispute, so far we must acknowledge that the times we live in are happier times, than ever fell to the lot of our ancestors, and if we complain of them, it must be on account of something, which has not yet come under our review; we will therefore proceed to the next point, and take the present state of religion into our confideration.

Religious feuds are so terrible in their consequences, and the peace of this kingdom has been fo often destroyed by the furiousness of zealots and enthusiasts, struggling for church-establishment, and persecuting in their turns the fallen party without mercy, that the tranquillity we now enjoy, (greater as I believe than in any time past, but certainly as great) is of itself sufficient to put the modern murmurer to filence. To substantiate my assertion, let me refer to the rising {pirit of toleration; wherever that blessed spirit

prevails,

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prevails, it prevails for the honour of man's nature, for the enlargement of his heart, and for the augmentation of his social happiness. Whilft we were contending for our own rights, felf-defence compelled us to keep off the encroachments of others, that were hostile to those rights; but these being firmly established, we are no longer warranted to hang the sword of the law over the head of religion, and oppress our seceding fellow-subjects. Is there any just reason to complain of our established clergy in their collective character? If they do not ftun us with controversies, it is because they understand the spirit of their religion better than to engage in them: The publications of the pulpit are still numerous, and if they have dropt their high inflammatory tone, it is to the honour of Christianity that they have so done, and taken up a milder, meeker language in it's stead. As for the practice of religion, it is not in my present argument to speak of that; my business is only to appeal to it as an establishment, essential to the fupport and happiness of fociety; and when we reflect how often in times paft it has been made an engine for subverting that tranquillity and good order in the state, which it now peaceably upholds, I think it will be clear to every candid man that this cannot be one of the causes

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of complaint and murmur against the presene times.

The Manners of the age we live in is the next point I am to review ; and if I am to bring this into any decent compass, I must reject many things out of the account, that would make for my argument, and speak very briefly upon all others.

To compare the manners of one age with those of another we must begin by calling to remembrance the changes that may have been made in our own time, (if we have lived long enough to be witnesses of any) or we must take them upon tradition, or guess at them by the writings of those who describe them: The comic poets are in general good describers of the living manners, and of all dramatic painters in this class Ben Jonson is decidedly the best. In the mirror of the stage we have the reflection of the times through all their changes from the reign of Elizabeth to that of Anne, with an exception to the days of Oliver, of which interval if there was no other delineation of the reigning manners, than what we find in the annals of Whitelocke and Clarendon, we should be at no loss to form our judgment of them.

I stopt at the age of queen Anne, because it was then that Sir Richard Stecle and Mr. Addison

began

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