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wish well to the interests of virtue, but are fa-
vourably disposed to advance the cause of reh-
e'on ; nay, would be extremely startled at not
ling thought sincerely religious ; yet from in-
oonsideration, want of time, want of self-exami-
nation, want of a just sense of the high require-
ments 0f the Divine law, want of suspecting the
deceitfulness of the human heart, sometimes
aliow themselves in inattentions and negligences
which materially affect their own safety, and
^e comfort of others. — While an animated spirit
of charity seems to be kindled among us : while
there is a general disposition to instruct the ig-
Qorant, and to reform the vicious ; we cannot
help regretting that these amiable exertions
fhould be counteracted, in some degree, by
practices of a directly opposite tendency ; tri-
flin^ in their appearance, but serious in their

There are still among as petty domestic evils,
which seemed too inconsiderable to claim re-
dress. There is an aggrieved body of men in
cor very capital, whose spiritual hardships seem
scarcely to have been taken into consideration, I
mean the hair Daissms on whom

The Sundaf shines, no daj of rest to tbem.

Is there not a peculiar degree of unkindness
in exercising such cruelty on the souls of men,
whose whole lives are employed in embellishing
oar persons ? And is it quite conceivable how
a lady*s conscience is able to make such nice
distinctions that she would be shocked at the
idea of sending for her mantuamakerf or milli-

• This tract was written toon after the institution of
the societ/ for enforcing the lung's proclamation agaijist
vm and irreligion.

t It is fearH that since these pajjes were written the
•cmple of sending for either is much diminished.
Vol. I.

ner, her carpenter or mason, on a Sunday, wK.le
she makes no scruple regularly to employ a
hair-dresser 7

Is it not almost ridiculous to observe the zeal
we have for doing good at a distance, while we
neglect the little, obvious, every-day, domestic
duties which should seem to solicit our imme-
diate attention 7 But an action ever so righ^
and praise- worthy which is only to be period i
cally performed, at distant intervals, is less bur.
thensome to corrupt nature, than an undeviating
attention to such small, constant right habits as
are hostile to our natural indolence, and would
be perpetually vexing and disturbing our self-
love. The weak heart indulges its infirmity, by
albwing itself intermediate omissions, and ha-
bitual neglects of duty ; reposing itself for safety,
on regular but remote returns of stated perform-
ances. It is less trouble to subscribe to the pro*
pagation of the Gospel in foreign parts, than to
have daily prayers in our own families, and I am
persuaded that there are multitudes of well-
meaning people who would gladly contribute to
a mission of Christianity to Japan or Otaheite,
to whom it never occurred that the hair-dresser,
whom they are every Sunday detaining from
church has a soul to be saved; that the law of
the land co-operates with the law of (?od, to for-
bid their employing him ; and that they have no
right, cither legal or moral, to this portion of
his time. The poor man, himself, perhaps, da:-es
not remonstrate, for fear he should be deprived
of his employmeat for the rest of the week. If
there were no other objection to a pleasurable
Sunday among the rreat and affluent, methinkb
this single one mipnt operate : would not a de.
vout heart be tinwuling to rob a fellow creature
of his time for devotion, or a humane one of his
hour of rest ? • Love worketh no ill to his neigh-
hour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.*

It is strange that there should be so little con.
sistency in human conduct, that the same per-
sons should gladly contribute to spread the light
of Christianity in another hemisphere ; while,
by their example, th6y actually obstruct the pro-
gress of it at home. 6ut it is, I doubt not, much
oflener owing to the imperceptible influence of
custom and habit, than to a decided ill intention.
Besides, it may lie in morals as it is in optics,
the eye and the object may come too close tc
each other, to answer the end of vision. There
are certain faults which press too near our self
love to be even perceptible to us.

The petty mischief of what is called card mo-
ney is so assimilated to our habits, and iuterwo
ven with our family arrangements, that even
man^ of the prudent and virtuous no longei
consider it as a worm which is feeding on the
vitals of domestic virtue. How many poor
youths, after having been trained in a wholesome
dread of idleness and gaming, when they are
sent abroad into the world, are astonished to
find that part of the wages of the servant is to
be paid by his furnishing the implements of di.
version for the guests of the master. Thus good
servants are a commodity which has long brec
diminishing by an elaborate system. The more
sober the family, the fewer attractions it must
necessarily have ; for these servants w ill nntu>
rally quit a place, however excellent, where thert

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is no play, ibr one where there is some ; and a
family where there is but little, for one where
tnere is much. Thus if the advantage of the
dependent is to increase in a direct ratio to the
dissipation of his employer, what encouragement
is lefl for valuable servants, or what prospect
remains of securing valuable servants for sober
minded families 7

It will be said that so small an evil is scarcely-
worth insisting on. But a small fault which is
become a part of a system, in time establishes
an error into a principle. And that remon.
strance which should induce people to abolish
one wrong habit, or pluck out one rooted error,
however trifling, would be of more real use than
the most eloquent declamation against vice in
general. To take out only one thorn from a
suffering patient, b more beneficial to him than
the most elaborate disquisition on the pain he is
suflerihg from the thorns which remain.

It should be held as an eternal truth, that
what is morally wrong can never be politically
right It would be arguing great ignorant of
human nature, and exacting a very rigorous de-
gree of virtue from a person of vulgar sentiments
to expect that he should wbh well to the inte-
rests of sobriety, or heartily desire the decrease
of dissipation, while the growth of it is made so
profitable to himself. It is requiring too much
to make the temptation so forcible where the
power of resistance is so weak. To hold out to
a poor fellow the strong seduction of interest,
and yet to expect he will retain the a|ime in-
flexible principle, is to expect from an illiterate
servant an elevation of virtue, which has not
always been found even in statesmen and mi-

It is not here intunded to enter into any ani-
madversion on the subject of play itself. But
may we not ask without offence, if it be per-
iecUy right to introduce any money arisinff from
or connected with it, into a part of regular fa-
mily economy 7 Is it not giving an air of sys-
tern to diversion, which does not seem entirely
of a piece with the other orderly practices of
many discreet families where this odd traffic is
carried on 7 Would not our ancestors, who
seem to have understood economy and magnifi-
cence too, at least as well as their desc ndants,
have been scandalized had it been proposed to
them to incorporate play so intimately with the
texture of their domestic arrangements, as that
it should make part of their plan ! And would
they have thought it a very dignified practice
not to have paid themselves for Uie amusements
of their own houses ; but to have invited their
friends to an entertainment of which the guests
were to defray part of the expense 7

Let me suppose a case: what appearance
would it have, if every gentleman who has par-
taken of the social entertainment of a friend^s
table, were after dinner, expected by the butler,
lo leave a piece of money under his plate to pay
for his wine 7 Do not common sense, hospitality,
friendship, and liberal feelings revolt at the bare
BU{rgc8tion of such a project 7 Yet there is in
effect as little hospitality, as little friendship,
and as little liberality in being obliged to pay
for the cards as for the wine ; both equally ma-
king a part of the entertainment. I

It is hardly too ludicrous to add, that seeing
how this point has been csurried in favour of the
groem of the chambers (and it descends down
te the lowest footman,) we need not despair of
seeing the butler insist on being allowed to fur-
nish the wine, for which he shell compel the
guests to pay with the same high interest with
which they now pay for the cards. It will seem
odd at first, but afterwards we shall think no
more about it, to see him, during dinner, noting
down those who drink the more costjy wines,
that they may be taxed double. And it will
sound whimsical at firsts to hear the butter give
his master notice that he must quit his place,
because the companjr have drank a little wine.
This only sounds ridiculous, while the leaving
a place through deficiency of card money sounds
reasonable, because we are accustomed to the
one, and the other is not yet become fashionable.

The extinction of this favourite perquisite
would at first be considered as a violent Innovp.-
tion. All reformations seem formidable before
they are attempted. The custom of nziTs, * which
gave corruption broader wings to fly,' was sup»
posed to be invincibte. Yet how soon did a
general concurrence exterminate it I Had any
one foretold twenty years Ufo, that in a very
short space, near half a million of pilfering,
swearing, Sabbath-breaking children, should m
rescued from the streets, and brought into ha-
bits of sobriety and virtue, should we not have
undertaken that the cleansing stream of reli-
gious instruction should thus be poured through
the Augean stable of ignorance and ,vice, and
in some measure wash away its grossest impu-
rities 7

The servant would probably complain of the
annihilation of this gainful custom : but the
master would find his account in indemnifying
tlie loss ; for he in his turn would be released
fVom the preposterous contribution to the wages
of other men's servants. If in a fiimily of over-
grown dissipation the stated addition should not
be found equivalent to the relinquished perqui-
site, the servant must heroically submit to the
disadvantageous commutation for the public
good. And after all it would be no very serious
grievance if his reduced income should not then
exceed that of the chaplain. It will still at least
exceed that of many a deserving gentleman,
bred to liberal learning, whose feelings that
learning has refined to a painful acuteness, and
who is withering away in hopeless penury witn
a large family, on a curacy, but little surpassing
the wages of a livery servant

The same principle in human nature by which
the nabob, the contractor, and others, by a sud-
den influx of unaccustomed wealth, become to-
luptuous, extravagant, and insolent, seldom fails
to produce the same eflect on persons in these
humbler stations, when raised from inferior
places, to the sudden afiSuence of these gainful
ones. Increased profligacy on a sudden swell
of fortune is commonly followed by desperate
methods to improve the circumstances when im-
paired by the improvidence attending unaccus*
tomed prosperity.

There Is another domestic practice which it
is almost idle to mention, because it is so diffi
cult to redress, since such is the present statf

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ol society, that even the conscientious think
tiiemselves obliged to concur in it That inge-
nuity which could devise some effectual substi-
tute for the daily and hourly lie of Not at home^
would deserve well of society. Why will not
•ome of those illustrious ladies who lead in the
fashionable world invent some phrase which
shall equally rescue from destruction the time
of the master and the veracity of the servant 7
Some new and appropriate expreiwion, the not
idopting which should be blended with the stig-
ma of vulgarity, might accomplish that whidi
tlie charge of its being immoral has failed to

The expediency of the denial itself, no one
will dispute, who has a just idea of the value of
time. Some scrupulous persons so very much
dispute the lawfulness of making their servant's
tongue the medium of any kind of falsehood, as
to make it a point of conscience rather to lay
themselves open to the irruption of every idle
invader, who sallies out on morning visits bent
on the destruction of business and &e annihila-
tion ot study. People of very strict integrity
lament that this practice induces a general spi-
rit of lying, mixes itself with the habit, and by
a quality, the reverse of an alterative, gradually
nndermines the moral oonstitution. Others on
the contrary assert, that it is one of those lies
of convention, no more intended to deceive than
the dear sir at the beginning, or your humble
•ertant at the close of a letter to a person who
is not dear to you, and to whom vou owe no sub-
jection. There is, however, this very material
difference^ that if the first be a falsehood, you
do not convey it by proxy : You use it yourself,
und you use it to one who sets no more value on
your words than you intended he should ; and
who shows you he does not, by using the same
stated phrase in return, in addressing you, for
whom he cares as little. Here the words pass
for no more than they are worth.

The ill efiiect of the custom we aie lamenting
may be traced in marking the gradual initiation
of an unpractised country servant. And who
haa not felt fbr his virtuous distress, when he
has been ordered to call back a more favoured
visitant, whom ho had just sent away with the
assurance that his lady was not at home ? Who
has oot seen his suppressed indignation at being
obliged to become himself the detector of that
&lsehood of which he had been before the in-
strument ? But a little practice, and a repetition
of reproof fbr even daring to ZooA; honest, soon
cures this fault, especially as he is sure to be
commended in proportion to the increased firm-
ness of his voice, and the steadiness of his coun-

If this evil, petty as it may seem to be, be
really without a remedy ; if the state of society
be such that it cannot be redressed, let us not
be 9o unreasonable as to expect that a servant
will equivocate in small instances, and not in
great ones. To hope that he will always lie for
vour eonvenienoe, and never fbr his own, is per-
oaps expecting more from human nature in a
bw and uncultivated stato than wo have any
right to expect Nor should the master look for
undeviaUng and perfect rectitude from his ser-
•mnt, in whom this principle of veracity is daily

and hourly w eakened in oonfbrmity to his own

Let us bring home the case to ourselves the
only fair way of determining in all cases of con-
science. Suppose we had established it into a
system to allow ourselves regularly to lie on one
certain given subject, every day ; while we con-
tinned to value ourselves on the most undeviat-
ing adherenoe to truth on every other point.
Who shall say, that at the end of one year's to-
lerable and systematic lying, on this individual
subject, we should continue to look upon false-
hood in general with the same abhorrence wc
did, when we first entered upon this partial ex-
ercise of it

There is an evil newly crept into polished so-
ciety, and it comes under a mask so specious
that they who are allured by it, come not sel-
dom under the description of good sort of people.
I allude to SuNOAT-cozfOKRTs. Many who would
be startled at a profane or even a light amuse-
ment, allow themselves to fancy that the name
of sacred music sanctifies the diversion. But if
those more favoured beings, whom Prqvidence
enables to lire in ease and affluence, do not
make these petty renunciations of their own
ways, and their own pleasure, what criterion
have we by which to judge of their sincerity 1
For as the goodness of Providence has exempted
them fVom painful occupations, they have nei-
ther labour from which to rest, nor business
firom which to refrain. A little abstinence from
pleasure is the only valid evidence they have ti
give of their obedience to the divine precept

I know with what indignant scorn this re*
mark will, by many, be received : I know that
much will be advanced in favour of the sanctity
of this amusement I shall be told that the words
are, many of them, extracted from the Bible,
and that the composition is the divine HandePs.
But were the angel Gabriel the poet, the arch-
angel Michael the composer, and the song of
the Lamb the subject, it would not abrogate that
statute of the Most High, which has said, *■ Thou
shalt keep holy the Sabbath day, and thy servant,
and thy cattle, shall do no manner of work.*
I am persuaded that the hallelujahs of heaven
would make no moral music to the ear of a con-
scientious person, while he reflected that multi-
tudes of servants are through his means wait-
ing in the street, exposed to every temptation ;
engaged, perhaps, in profane swearing, and idle,
if not dissolute conversation, and the very cattle
are deprived of that rest which the tender mercy
of God was graciously pleased, by an astonish-
ing oondescension, to include in the command-

But I will, for the sake of argument, so far
concede as to ^low of the innocence and even
piety of Sunday-cpncerts : I will suppose (wh*it,
however, does not oflen happen) that no unhaU
lowed strains are ever introduced ; I will adm»»
that some attend these concerte with a view to
cultivate devout affections ; that they cherish the
serious Impressions excited by the music, and
retire in such a frame of spirit as convinces
them that the heart was touched while the ear
was gratified : nay, I would grant, if such a
concession would be accepted, that the intervals
were filled up with conversation, * whereby one

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may edify another :' yet all these good elTects,
allowing them really to have been produced,
will not remove the invincible objection of an
cviL EXAUPLE ; and what liberal spirit would re-
fuse any reasonable sacrifice of its own pleasure
to so important a motive ? Your servants have
been accustomed to consider a concert as a se-
ealar diversion ; if you, therefore, continue it
on a Sunday, will not they also expect to be in-
dulged on that day with their common' amuse-
ments 7 Saint Paul, who was a very liberal
thinker, believed it prudent to make fVequent
sacrifices of things indifferent in themselves.
He was willing to deny himself a harmless and
lawful gratification, even a$ long as the world
stoodf rather than shock the tender consciences
of men of less understanding. Where a prac-
tice is neither good nor evil in itself, it is both
discreet and generous to avoid it, if it can be at-
tended with any possible danger to minds less
enlightened, and to faith less confirmed.

But religion apart, I have sometimes wonder-
ed that people do not yield to the temptation that
is held out to them, of abstaining from diver-
sions one day in seven, upon motives of mere
human policy ; as voluptuaries sometimes fast,
to give a keener relish to the delights of the
next repast : for pleasure, like an over-fed lamp,
is extinguished by the excess of its own ali-
ment : not to say that the instrument of our
gratification is oflen converted into our bane-
Anacreon was choaked by a grape stone. The
lovers of pleasure are not always prudent, even
upon their own principles ; for I am persuaded
that this world would afford much more real sa-
tisfaction than it does, if we did not press, and
torture, and strain it, in order to make it yield
what it does not contain. Much good, and
much pleasure, it does liberally bestow ; but no
labour or art, can extract fVom it that elixir of
peace, that divine essence of content, which it is
not in its nature to produce. There is good
sense in searching into ever? blessing for its
hidden properties ; but it is folly to ransack and
plunder it for such properties as the experience
of all ages tells us are foreign to it. We ex-
haust the world of its pleasures, and then la-
ment that it is empty : we wring those pleasures
to the very dregs, and then complain that they
are vapid. We erroneously seek in the world
ibr that peace which we are repeatedly told is
not to be found in it While we neglect to seek
it in Him who has expressly told us that our
happiness depends on hi$ having overcome the
world.—* Peace I leave with you, my peace I
give unto you ; not as the world giveih give I
unto you.''

I shall, probably, be accused of a very narrow
and fanatical spirit in animadverting on a prac-
tice so little suspected of harm as the frequent-
ing of public walks and gardens on a Sunday ;
and coruinly there cannot be an amusement
more entirely harmless in itself But I must
appeal to the honest testimony of our own hearts,
if the effect be iavourable to seriousness. Do
wo commonly retire from these places with the
impressions which were made on us at church,
in their full force ? We entered these sprightly
scenes, perhaps with a strong remaining tinc-
ture of that devout spirit which the public wor- 1

ship had infused into the mind : but hafe we
not felt it gradually diminish? Have not oar
powers of resistance mwn insensibly weaker 7
Has not the gayety of the scene converted, as it
were, argument into allusion ? The doctrinef,
which in the morning appeared the sober die
tales of reason, now seem unreasonably rigid ,
and truths, which were then thought incontro-
vertible, now appear impertinent To answer
objections is much easier than to withstand al-
lurements. The understanding may controvert
a startling proposition with less difficulty than
the sliding Iieart can resist the infection of se-
ducing gayety. To oppose a cold and specula
tive faith to the enchantment of present plea-
sure, is to fight with inadequate weapons ; it is
resisting arms with rules ; it is combating temp
tation with an idea. Whereas, he who engages
in the christian warfare, will find that his chief
strength consists in knowing that he is very
weak ; his progress will depend on his convic-
tion that he is every hour liable to go back ; hii
success, on the persuasion of Bis fallibility ; his
safety, on the as^rance that to retreat from
danger is his highest glory, and to decline the
combat his truest courage.

Whatever indisposes the mind for the duty
of any particular season, though it assume ever
80 innocent a form, cannot be perfectly right
If the heart be laid open to the incursion of
vain imaginations, and worldly thoughts, it
matters little by what gate the enemy entered.
If the effect be injurious, the cause cannot b«
quite harmless. It is the perfidious property of
certain pleasurefs that though they seem not to
have the smallest harm in themselves, they im-
perceptibly indispose the mind to every thing
that is good.

Many readers will be apt to produce against all
this precisenesB, that hackneyed remark which
one is tired of hearing, that Sunday diver«ion»
are allowed publicly in many foreign ooun
tries, as well in those professing the reform-
ed religion, as popery. But the corruptions
of one part of the protestant world are no
reasonable justification of the evil practices of
another. Error and infirmity can never be pro-
per objects of imitation. It is still a remnant
of the old leaven; and as to pleading the prac-
tice of Roman catholic countries, one blushes to
hear an enlightened protestant justifying him-
self by examples drawn from that benighted re-
ligion, whose sanctions we should in any oth«r
instance be ashamed to plead.

Besides, though I am fiir from vindicating
the amusements permitted on Sundays in fo-
reign countries, by allowing that established
custom and long prescription have the privilege
of conferring ri^ht ; yet foreigners may, at least,
plead the sanction of custom, and the conni-
vance of the law : while in this country, the law
of the land, and established usage, concurring
with still higher motives, give a sort of renera
ble sanction to religious observances, the breach
of which will be always more liable to miscon-
struction than in countries where so many ma
tives do not concur in its support

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 61 of 135)