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answerable, but if at one period the mistaken zeal of some of its votaries afforded encouragement to the bane, the enlightened efforts of its disciples in after times have supplied the antidote. The torturing and burning of witches was suppressed, not in consequence of its being proved irrational by any philosophical argument, but by its being felt to be contrary to Christian principles. The superstitions of the nursery, and the belief in ghosts and hobgoblins, lingered for some time longer, but are now effectually banished, not by the arguments of philosophy, but the influence of enlightened Christianity, by providing a supply of more useful and salutary instruction for the infant mind, by many little works adapted to the capacities of the young, in which moral and religious truths are presented to them in the most attractive form, and in which every art is used to draw them to the love and practice of virtue. *
* I may here mention, that in estimating the effect which Christianity, and Revelation generally, have produced in the world, we are not entirely to confine ourselves to Christian countries. A large portion of the earth has been for many centuries, and still remains, under the influence of a religion which never would have had an origin, unless the Jewish and Christian revelations had been previously promulgated. It is undoubted that Mahomet borrowed many of the doctrines and precepts of the Koran from the writings of the Old and New Testament; and it is even said, that he was assisted in the labour of composing his work by a Christian monk. Gross and absurd as many parts of that performance are, it must be admitted to contain something superior to the systems of Pagan idolatry which it superseded. The fundamental truth, that there is but one God, and the virtues which it recommends, of justice, and charity to the poor, must have been attended with beneficial effects. If this be admitted, and it cannot, I think, be denied,-we are justified in claiming any improvement which may have been produced by Mahometanism among the rude tribes which embraced it, as one of the remote consequences of Christianity. Of course we do not lay stress upon this as adding much to the benefits which Christianity has conferred upon the world; but if any one shall state the honesty, or other good qualities of the Turks, as having arisen under a system independent of Christianity, it may be answered, that all which is good in that system was borrowed from Christianity.
Mr Combe winds up his remarks on the teaching of our divines, and its effects, in the following passage :· "It appears to me that one reason why vice and misery do not diminish in proportion to preaching, is, that the natural laws (that is, the rules of conduct discoverable by man's natural reason) are too much overlooked. The theological doctrine of the corruption and disorder of human nature," (a doctrine which is undeniably true,) "joined to the want of knowledge of real science, have probably been the causes why the professed servants of God have made so little use of his laws as revealed in creation, in instructing the people to live according to his will." Now, I do not deny that it may be very proper to instruct the people in the laws of the natural world, as revealed in creation, though it may be doubted whether the pulpit is the proper place whence such knowledge should be taught. But the question I wish to direct attention to at present is, whether it is so perfectly true as Mr Combe assumes, that vice and misery do not diminish in proportion to preaching. Many of the facts already stated appear to lead to the conclusion, that in times past vice and misery have diminished in proportion to preaching, and that this is proved to have taken place in this very country on a scale of considerable magnitude. It has undoubtedly been as effectual in its way, in diminishing vice and misery in a moral, as the study and the improvement of medical science have been in a physical point of view.
But I shall bring the matter nearer home, and shall recur to facts which I do not expect will or can be denied, shewing the effects that have been produced, principally, I will say, by zealous and judicious preaching, within our own remembrance, and in this very place where I am now writing. Let those who recollect tell what was the state of manners in this our northern
metropolis, among the higher and middle classes of society, not more than half a century ago. At that time, and for a long period previous, the classes I refer to universally indulged in practices now as universally proscribed. They did not, to be sure, cheat, lie, and steal, but they did their utmost to injure their health and destroy their intellects, by habitual and excessive drinking. Hardly an entertainment took place at which the majority of the male guests did not drink to intoxication. It was thought a disgrace to the landlord if any of them went away sober, and the mark of a mean and cowardly spirit, if any one attempted to shy his glass, or to escape the scene of inebriety. This feeling is graphically described by Sir Walter Scott in his novel of Waverley, in his account of the revels at the Baron of Bradwardine's, and is alluded to by Burns in the well known lines,
The first shall rise to gang awa,
The first beside his chair shall fa',
This picture is not overcharged; on the contrary, the half is not told. It was then no disgrace to a gentleman to be seen, or to be carried home, in a state of intoxication. Now, it will be admitted, such things are not merely rare, but we may say absolutely unknown.
But the physical part of the evil was not the worst. The conversation at these nocturnal orgies was even more offensive to moral feeling than the liquor that was swallowed. The topics chosen, and the mode of treating them, were of the grossest description. Not boys, but grave serious men, as they "chirped over their cups," endeavoured to outdo each other in a species of discourse that would not now be tolerated any where. Profanity was, in many cases, added to licentiousness; and with
many this became so much a habit, that they hardly ever opened their lips without taking their Maker's name in vain in the most blasphemous and absurd imprecations. This nuisance is also abated, and nothing of the kind is heard in any thing like civilized society.
It must not be supposed, however, that our ancestors were so grossly stupid, and so gratuitously wicked, as to love these enormities entirely for their own sake. Many of the men I speak of possessed superior talents and convivial powers of a high order; and amidst their gross licentiousness and profanity, displayed a degree of wild wit, and reckless unrestrained humour, tempered by occasional appeals to better feelings, so as to render the whole not less seductive to the mind, than the wine that sparkled in the cup was tempting to the taste. All this is true; and it may be not less true, that as our entertainments have become more decent, they have, in some degree, also become more dull; but this only enhances the merit of the victory that has undoubtedly been gained over a custom "more honoured in the breach than the observance."
It followed, perhaps necessarily, from this state of manners, that among the professions called learned, particularly the gentlemen of the bar, the Sabbath was almost invariably and systematically devoted to secular employment. So little was it regarded by them as a day of rest, that it was actually chosen, as being less liable to interruption, for those parts of business requiring the closest and most unintermitted attention. Frequently, also, the evening was spent in a renewal of the same festive pleasures which had employed the rest of the week, and certainly with no more restraint on the ebullitions of social glee.
A worse evil than any I have mentioned, prevailed within the above period. Men were then not satisfied
with "walking in the counsel of the ungodly," and "standing in the way of sinners;" but they set themselves, in many instances, in the "chair of the scorner.' There were many at that time who prided themselves in openly avowing their unbelief in, and scoffing at, the doctrines of religion and the persons of its professors. This worst of all nuisances is also completely put down.. Even the boldest unbeliever does not now venture publicly on a profane jest; and if he has not learnt to respect religion, he at least does not openly insult the feelings of those who profess it.
All these gross, undeniable offences, which within these forty or fifty years were notoriously and habitually indulged in by many among the higher and wealthier classes of society, are now so entirely removed, that some will hardly believe them to have existed; and I conceive it to be equally certain, that their removal has been mainly attributable to the zealous, able, and judicious efforts of our excellent divines. About the commencement of the period we have been considering, although there were many learned and worthy men in the Church, yet there was an apathy and lukewarmness in regard to Christianity among the people, and a want, upon the whole, of zeal and fervency, on the part of the clergy. Since that time a change in these respects has undoubtedly taken place. There has been in some degree a revival of the spirit and knowledge of the true faith. Men have arisen amongst us of energetic minds and splendid talents, who have contributed, as far as their exertions have extended, in removing the veil from men's hearts, and inducing many who "cared for none of these things" to attend to the divine message. The effects of their exertions have appeared not merely in the improvement of manners which has been noticed, but in the more regular attendance on places of worship.