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temporary distinction, despise that which myriads of their fellow-creatures have found to be a light to lighten their paths; a medicine for sickness of mind, the most distressing of all languors; a vulnerary to heal the severest wounds of the bosom? You have too much sense not to see the vanity of all human things; the brevity of life; the weakness of man in his best estate; the poverty of riches, and the littleness of grandeur. Seeing and feeling these things, you will aspire at something greater, something better, something more satisfactory and more durable, than this fading scene, and this perishable body, are able to afford. You will see a sublimity in religion, a true grandeur in all its views; and you will wish to be impressed with it, that your soul, your very essence may be refined, sublimed, and truly ennobled. Little minds, the half learned, the empty and the conceited, are the pronest to infidelity and irreligion. A really great mind, a mind adorned by the lights of learning, and a heart finely sensible of all that in its most perfect state it ought to feel, will acknowledge with all humility its own want of support, and aspire with ardent hope to the favour of the Deity.’ And let me entreat you to keep in mind, that religious impressions must be stamped early in life; because there is great danger that the heart may become too much hardened in the world, to admit them in advanced age. The sooner you adopt pious sentiments, the better: but because the outward appearances of religion are often suspicious, often the cloaks of hypocrisy, you will take care to avoid the ostentation of piety. Indeed, there is not much danger of it in the present times: it is so much exploded in some circles in high life, that many a young man of gaiety and fashion would rather be suspected of every extravagance and folly, than of saying his prayers, or paying a sincere respect either to the public or private offices of devotion. To avoid the suspicion of hypocrisy, your piety will be more in your heart than on your tongue; and your intercourse with Heaven will be carried on with little other privity, (except on Sundays and in the church,) than that of your own conscience. This subject is too extensive and too important for a familiar letter; I can only give you hints upon it; you must improve them by reading and reflection. Give me leave to send you for instruction to the great masters of theology in our own language; to Barrow, whose copious eloquence would adorn a senate; to South, whose wit, and sound argument, and energetic style, will improve you in speaking, while it convinces your reason, confirms your faith, animates your zeal, and inspires your heart with manly sentiments of duty to yourself, your neighbour, and your God. I mention eloquent writers, that you may not lay aside a volume of sermons, with the usual complaint of dulness. More lively writers than Barrow and South are not to be found in the English language. I fear, if I should recommend dull tomes of divinity, however sound, I should stand no chance of being regarded. But why should you not have a theological library? Do you think divinity concerns the clergy only 2 It concerns man, as man; and he has poor pretensions to the character of a nobleman, whose narrow prejudiced mind leads him to think, that divinity is interesting to none but men who follow it as a lucrative profession. Hebrew I do not recommend to you; because you cannot comprehend in your plan every thing that is desirable. But pray furnish yourself with a
Septuagint Bible, a Latin Bible, and an English one, of the best edition. Procure Wetstein's and Bengelius's testaments. Set apart a bookcase in your library, for the best writings of celebrated laymen of our own country in divinity; such as Locke, Addison, Nelson, West, and Lyttelton: and be not ashamed of admitting among them, the celebrated writers of sermons, whose compositions, considered only as fine pieces of literature, deserve a place in every good library. - The time may come, when you will find this part of your collection the most agreeable. In old age it will furnish much comfort. Happy for you it will be, if in your youth you divest yourself of those prejudices against religion and religious books, which, unworthy as they are of a truly philosophic and noble mind, are cherished as marks of superiority over the vulgar ! You must die like the vulgar; you have nerves susceptible of pain and languor like the vulgar; you may be judged and condemned like the vulgar; deign therefore to worship and obey the God of the vulgar. Before his eyes in what light do you think appear coronets, ribands, and stars? A book, of some authority with the people, though sometimes neglected by the great, says, “Not many noble are called.”—That they are not, must be their own fault, for God is no respecter of person. I am, &c.
2. - - - - * * *
- LETTER XLV.
My LoRD, Give me leave to write you one more letter on Religion, and I will desist, lest I should find you throw away my letters, as you say Lord * * * did your Barrow's Sermons, when he called upon you to desire
you to take' ten guineas' worth" of tickets for the benefit of Signior ****
"A nobleman has no right to retain his distinctions, when he refuses to perform on his part those duties in society, which the conferring or continuing of those distinctions tacitly requires of him. He promises by retaining the honours bestowed, to reflect a lustre back again on his country, and to contribute what be can tò the maintenance of its constitution, both civil and ecclesiastical. An open avowed contempt of the religious ordinances of a country, where he is peculiarly favoured, is an insult which the people feel, and when opportunity offers, will show that they can resent, by degrading his order.
What think you then, my Lord, of the fashionable practice among nobles, of selecting Sunday, in
preference to all other days, for travelling ? What passes on Sundays within the walls of our patricians' mansion-houses, even if it should be improper, (which is not to be uncharitably surmised,) when it is not seen by the public," may neither do them harm by the example, nor degrade nobility in their opinion. But splendid equipages flying about the country on Sundays, during divine service, with coronets on the coach doors and on the horses' caparisons, betray an insolence, which the majesty of a people, not yet lowered by atheism, will one day curb, in a manner which may render the lordlings who sport them, objects of pity. The honest husbandman stops his plough, the weaver his loom, the smith quenches his fire, and the carpenter lays down his hammer, in obedience to the laws of his country, and for the preservation of decorum ; but the great lord in the neighbourhood, an hereditary maker and guardian of the laws, and one who expects great worship to be paid to himself, sets out on Sunday, on his jour
ney to Londom or a place of amusement; though as he is totally unemployed, he might with equal convenience to himself, travel on any other day. He takes with him five or six menial servants, and six or seven horses, who are driven with cruel haste, as if life and death depended on the saving of an hour; when the whole business of the journey is, that one lord may sit down and eat and drink with another lord, then yawn on a sofa, and finish the evening with faro. Should an aristocracy thus insult a generous and religious people, let it not imagine itself founded on a rock. If nobles are anxious to hand down their honours, as they received them, unsullied and unimpaired, let them pay a scrupulous regard to public decorum. A free people will not for ever be insulted by those, whose useless state, and luxurious indolence, they support by their labour. Some nobles may thank themselves alone for that levelling spirit, which prevails in Europe, and, without great efforts of virtue among the nobles, will triumph. I hope, for your own sake, you will not have routs and card-parties on Sundays; but that you will spend the day according to the laws and customs of your country: however, if you will not do so for your own sake, let me prevail with you to do it for the sake of your order; and for the sake of the common people, who have their eyes fixed on your conduct, and, in spite of all laws and all advice, will imitate it, though they despise it in you, and though it tends to the destruction of their health, their characters, and their properties. If you wish yourself and your posterity to preserve the nobility you inherit, support it, my Lord, by behaviour uniformly noble, and publicly decorous, as well as privately good, and intermally honest. Let your light shine before men, or it may be extinguished. - I am, &c.