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virtue ;-public vice was branded with public infamy, and obliged to hide its head in privacy and retirement. The service of God was regularly attended, and religion not exposed to the reproaches of the scorner.
How the case stands with us at present in each of these particulars, it is grievous to report, and perhaps unacceptable to religion herself; yet as this is a season wherein it is fit we should be told of our faults, let us for a moment impartially consider the articles of this charge.
And first, concerning the great article of religion, and the influence it has at present upon the lives and behaviour of the present times ;-concerning which I have faid, that if we are to trust appearances, there is as little as can well be supposed to exist at all in a christian country.--Here I shall spare exclamations, and avoiding all common place railing upon the subjeet, confine myself to facts, such as every one who looks out into the world, and makes any observations at all, will vouch for me,
Now whatever are the degrees of real religion amongst us, whatever they are, the ap
pearances are strong against the charitable side
This is too sore an evil not to be observed amongst persons of all ages, in what is called higher life; and so early does the contempt of this great concern begin to Thew itself—that it is no uncommon thing to hear persons difputing against religion, and raising cavils against the Bible, at an age when fome of them would be hard set to read a chapter in it. And I may add, that of those whofe stock in knowlege is fomewhat larger, that for the most part it has scarce any other foundation to reft on but the finking credit of traditional and second-hand objections against revelation, which had they leisure to read, they would find answered and confuted a thousand times over.-But this by the way.-
If we take a view of the public worship of Almighty God, and observe in what manner it is reverenced by persons in this rank of life, whose duty it is to set an example to the poor and ignorant, we shall find concurring evidence upon this melancholy argument--of a general want of all outward demonstration of a fenfe of our duty towards God, as if religion was a business fit only to employ tradesmen and mechanics and the falvation of our fouls, a concern utterly below the consideration of a person of figure and consequence.
I shall say nothing at present of the lower ranks of mankind-though they have not yet got into the fashion of laughing at religion,
and treating it with scors and contempt, and I believe are too serious a set of creatures ever to come into it; yet we are not to imagine but that the contempt it is beld in by those whofe examples they are too apt to imitate, will in time utterly shake their principles, and render them, if not as prophane, at least as corrupt as their betters. When this event happens and we begin to feel the effects of it in our dealings with them, those who have done the mifchief will find the neceffity at laft of turn. ing religious in their own defence, and for want of a better principle, to set an example of piety and good morals for their own intereft and convenience.
Thus much for the languishing state of religion in the present age;-in virtue and good morals perhaps the account may
Let us enquire
And here, I acknowlege, that an unexperienced man, who heard how loudly we all talked in behalf of virtue and moral honesty, and how unanimous we were all in our cry against vicious characters of all denominations,
would be apt hastily to conclude, that the whole world was in an uproar about it-and that there was so general a horrour and detestation of vice amongst us, that mankind were all associating together to hunt it out of the world, and give it no quarter.--This I own would be a natural conclusion for any one who only trusted his ears upon this subject.But as matter of fact is allowed better evidence than hear-say-let us see in the present how the one case is contradicted by the other,
However vehement we approve ourselves in discourse against vice-I believe no one is ignorant that the reception it actually meets with is very different—the conduct and behaviour of the world is so opposite to their language, and all we hear so contradicted by what we fee, as to leave little room to question which sense we are to trust.
Look, I beseech you, amongst those whose higher stations are made a shelter for the liberties they take, you will see, that no man's character is so infamous, nor any woman's so abandoned, as to be visited and admitted freely into all companies, and, if the party can