Imágenes de páginas

then Prince Henry, to his father, ends thus,—“I sincerely pray that God will graciously show His miraculous aid towards you in all places : praised be He in all His works.”* There are many similar ones. Walsingham's Letters, Goodman's Letters, afford the like examples. But they are to be found everywhere.

The daily services in colleges and cathedrals, and which, according to the Rubric, ought to be used in all churches, are a notice of the stricter religious observances of our “pious ancestors.”+ In Christ's Hospital, founded by Edw. VI., there are stated religious observances four times a day.

In other times, public prayers were offered by the whole army before engaging in battle; and sometimes they received the Sacrament. These things are so altered, that it was lately declared by a correspondent of the leading newspaper, and it was not even met by an observation,—that it was impossible for the crews of the Egyptian fleet to fight, for that they prayed five times a day, and that must of necessity destroy all discipline.

* Tyler's Henry V. vol. i. p. 203. See other religious expressions of Henry IV. and Henry V., and also of the speaker of the House of Commons, in the same work, pp. 138, 139, 193, 194, 203, 223, 309.

+ See Wordsworth's Sonnet, “Decay of Piety.”

In the old time Lent was not more honoured in the breach than the observance. We find from the household book of the Earl of Northumberland, which was kept in 1512, that throughout Lent, “beginning at Shrovetide and ending at Easter,” the breakfast (a great meal in an ancient family) consisted, “ for my Lord and Lady” of “ two pieces of salt fish, four herrings, or a dish of sprats;" instead of the customary allowance at other seasons of “half a chine of mutton or a chine of beef;" and the food at a lenten supper was equally meagre.

I have observed, that if England be the stronghold of religion in the world, it is important to ascertain whether it be progressing. But what if this be not the fact! What if, however other countries and Churches be growing careless and worldly, England and the English be proved to surpass them all in lukewarmness and indifference! I will now proceed to institute this comparison, and to ascertain the fact by a reference to numerous instances. The result will be a step gained in our inquiry, and important towards ascertaining our real present position. The conclusions to be drawn will be matter of less difficulty.








It is a well-known fact, that in all other countries which the English frequent,—and this is every country and people whatsoever in the habitable world, they are always considered as a people without religion. This is said and thought of them by the Mahometans, in Turkey and India; by the Hindoos; by the Italians, the French, the Spaniards and Portuguese; and by every other part of Christendom,—with the exception perhaps of the Germans.

Such a reputation does not conclude the question, it does not establish the fact; though it must be confessed that it is a strong presumptive evidence of it. What it does establish is, that there is less appearance of religion, less outward evidence of religious reverence among us, than amongst almost any other people on the earth : not excepting the Chinese. Religion does not consist in outward appearance. But the absence of it may be carried too far; as we say ourselves of the

Quakers. And the question is, whether a certain degree of ceremony is not necessary to keep up religious impression and motive in our hearts; and whether it can remain in full force when every thing around us is worldly; when the whole of the outward senses are occupied and engrossed by things that are of temporal use and concern; when religious observance never stands in the way of, or in competition with, human interests; when all hours and minutes of the day are assignable and assigned to business, and none is set apart for religion, but if employed for that use, must be stolen out of business hours, contrary to the usages of society:-whether, in short, religious observance and ceremony can be excluded and out of place, in the habitual intercourse and arrangements of life, and yet that the people which has chosen and arranged those habits, should be at heart a religious people. When in addition to the want of religious observance, the English in our colonies and elsewhere, are notoriously the most profligate of all people, being as much beneath the natives, (barbarous though they be called,) in moral conduct as in religious practices, it cannot be wondered at that these natives, (barbarous though they may be, as respects physical philosophy and commerce, and the arts of war and luxury,) should consider that our want of religion is actually as great as the want of appearance,

and that our practice is altogether consistent with and a proof of it.*

* “ Doubtless the dissipated conduct of the bulk of the European troops in India, contrasted as it is with the externally moral behaviour of the sepoys of our native regiments, (I speak of those of the Bengal

So far they are justified in their opinion, according to the facts which are before them. We doubtless shall reason and conclude differently, in accordance with the difference of facts; and say, that in this country, among the English at home, at least, there is more morality than in

any other nation on the earth, and more religious ceremony than' we can practise abroad, for want of opportunity. Our superior morality and good conduct stands confessed;—(at least our breaches, if any, are somewhat different in character from those of other nations,)—and we have certain public ceremonies of religion,-as the observance of Sunday, though more and more trenched upon, (I do not speak of the last two or three years,)—the saying grace at meals, even on public occasions,—and perhaps the increasing practice of family worship may be rightly set down to this class. But the question is of the degree and number of religious observances, and their comparative exercise and influence; and I shall proceed to show, by some examples, how studiously and zealously these are excluded in this country, and as it were with aversion, as compared with other nations. And if this be proved, and if it be made to appear that religion itself is con

Presidency, amongst whom drunkenness is a vice never witnessed,) must tend greatly to prejudice the native mind against the religion professed by those exhibiting such sad proofs of inconsistency."— Missionary Gleaner, No. 33, p. 13, Communication from un officer of the Indian army.

A few years ago every officer in India had his concubine. The English are the importers of gin and opium, for the love of money, and are practically the encouragers of drunkenness and vice in every colony.

« AnteriorContinuar »