« السابقةمتابعة »
in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water: let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful that promised); and let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works." S. C. W.
MORAL INDEPENDENCE OF
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. AMONG the causes which have been assigned to account for the alleged venality, selfishness, and want of moral integrity of too many of our public men, there is one which has not been generally mentioned, but which, I fear, lies at the root of much of the evil: I allude to those habits of shew and extravagance, of living beyond one's income, and burdening oneself with debt, which are fatal to honesty and independence. A man who enjoys what to him is a competency, contented in mind and free from debt, is able to resist a bribe: I do not mean merely an open, sordid appeal, in the direct shape of so much filthy lucre, but all those indirect bribes which are connected with advancement, patronage, provision for a family, and future expectations of dignity or emolument. I would not venture vaguely to calculate what proportion, but sure I am that a very large number, of our nobility, gentry, and clergy, of the members of both Houses of Parliament, of our professional men, our merchants and higher traders, are virtually living beyond their income: that is to say, they have not, every quarter-day, in hand sufficient to liquidate all demands upon them, and to go on with convenience to the next period of settlement. It is notorious that thousands of persons of good reputation, of unimpeached principle and, I grieve to add, some who are in high estimation as religious men-with a liberal compe
tency at their command, are constantly embarrassed in pecuniary matters; and pass their life in a series of petty shuffles, which degrade them in their own eyes and in the eyes of all around them. They seem to have begun with taking it for granted that their birth, station, or fortune requires a particular style of living; which, perhaps, wishing to avoid extravagance on the one hand, and sordidness on the other, they were willing to fix neither at its highest nor its lowest point, but at a fair mean. But with regret they soon found this supposed mean daily rising: families increase; outgoings multiply; one expense brings on another: the stables compete with the kitchen, and the kitchen with the stables; the cellar with the wardrobe, and the wardrobe with the cellar: one luxury renders another necessary: resistance, at length, they think almost vain; the points of attack are too numerous to be fully guarded; and, the incursion once made, the enemy soon seats himself in the citadel. The individual never meant to become involved in debt. He did not dream of passing an anxious life in keeping up his credit at his banker's; or in writing promissory notes, renewing them with interest, racking his invention to meet them when due, or to save his remaining credit when he could not promptly cover their amount. He simply intended to live with all propriety, as other gentlemen live in the same station of life. But he overcalculated his resources, and undercalculated the demands upon them: and when he discovered his mistake he was not prepared to retrench at once; he did not take alarm the first moment a single quarterly bill was unprovided for; he went on paying up arrears, and contracting new debts; anticipating the resources of tomorrow; borrowing, selling out— any thing, but resolutely curtailing his expenses. He was afraid of losing his credit: he was ashamed to let his friends and servants, his tradesmen and neighbours, discern
that he was going back. Besides, he did not know where to begin: his table? his domestic establishment? his rent? the education of his children? his accustomed decent luxuries? his wife and daughters' dress and equipage? his charities? At every turn he whispers, What will the world think? And the moment a man asks that question, he is degraded; he is a slave; he proves that faith is not in lively exercise in his soul, for it is one of the properties of faith to overcome the world. Not, indeed, that the world will in this case think so badly of him as he expects: they will say that he is an honest man, who prefers true honour, and peace of mind, and independence of character, to keeping up a superficial shew beyond his ability to support, and thus laying traps for his own feet as often as a temptation arises to cupidity and venality. This would be the worst of the disparagement in the public eye;-a disparagement which is never quoted to the discredit of Andrew Marvel, and would not be to that of any person who should evince the integrity and manliness, whatever his station, and at whatever risk, to reduce his expenses, and if possible his wishes, within the limits of his resources.
But there are men, and even some much-esteemed men, who dare not venture on this. They prefer keeping up a nominal rank, and using every subterfuge to support it. Thus they daily become less sensible to the degradation of debt, and soon begin to practise artifices to avoid its inconveniences. They flatter themselves that the world is ignorant of their exigencies; and live in constant terror lest the mortifying truth should become known among their acquaintance. In the mean time, the toils multiply around them: and, in particular, they cannot extricate themselves from the usurious exactions which those who minister to their wants or luxuries will, partly in justice to themselves, and partly in gross imposition, inflict upon their helpless victim. Thus, living upon
credit, or rather upon discredit, they must submit to bear what is imposed; not being able to emancipate themselves from their oppressors by discharging their claim, and seeking a more honest or lenient agent.
I might trace on the evil till it arrives at its last stages, and house and land are alienated, and the thoughtless owner is reduced to a degree of poverty far below what would have been his lot had he reso lutely grappled with the danger at an earlier stage. But the object of these remarks is, not to depict extreme cases, but only those incipient and unnoticed stages of the evil which apply to a very large number of persons of good estimation, and of whom nothing worse is popularly said than that "they are always a little behind-hand." It is to such persons that the present remonstrance is presented. Why be always "a little behind-hand?" Because, says one, I became early involved in expenses which my income would not support; but they were absolutely necessary to my station. Because, says another, I must contrive to maintain my numerous family in my own rank in life; I cannot see my children descend from a certain scale which I have marked out for them. Because, says a third, my prospects have widened as I rose; and I must meet my new dignities and perpetuate them after me. Because, says a fourth, I am obliged to keep up several establishments, and to make a good appearance, and exercise charity in them; and I expect, if I can only go on a few years longer, that I shall be able to obtain such or such an appointment, which will liquidate all; but if I proclaim myself a poor man, and lose my influence, I shall obtain nothing. And so on of numerous other cases.
Here, then, is a wide door opened to venality, to tampering with conscience, to acting short of conviction, to suppressing truth. A man dares not be independent who is living under these trammels; he cannot speak, or vote, or act, with fearless
honesty. If he is a legislator-and many such legislators there are-he is likely often to feel his way to a decision far otherwise than through the medium of his understanding or moral sensibility: he cannot afford to alienate friends, and throw away prospects, and cut off the entail of patronage. His conscience may not, indeed, allow him to descend to direct acts of turpitude, but he can be conveniently absent, or silent, or ignorant, or lukewarm. He feels, also, that he is so vulnerable that he dares not court inquiry: he is afraid to destroy the nest-egg of abuses by which he secretly hopes that himself or some of his family may some time chance to profit. He must tack, and trim, and compromise; he cannot afford to be a plain-spoken, honest man. And why? Because he has imposed upon himself shackles; because his growing expenses or his ambition lead him to look out for some of the emoluments or dignities which glitter before him; because he does not in faith and peace commit his affairs to Him who is infinitely wise and kind; because he does not seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and because he wishes for his children what his Heavenly Father may not see to be good for them. Is this liberty? Is this honour? Is this happiness? ask not if it be religion.
I cannot conceive a greater emancipation from care, a greater addition to true repose, an action more morally honourable or praiseworthy, than for such a man resolutely and at once to retrace his steps. I will imagine him to be a Commoner with a somewhat liberal provision; but who, in consideration of what he considers due to an ancient and honourable house, has been spending much more; always in debt and in difficulties, yet still living below the mark which his supposed dignity requires. He has been, year after year, openly or secretly angling for some of those additions of income which are considered not to soil the hands like trade and manufactures; and has
wasted his spirits, ruffled his temper, injured his health, sacrificed his independence, and perhaps violated his conscience, in pursuit of one of these convenient wind-falls. He has also a family to provide for, and he cannot brook that one of his children should stoop below the supposed line which befits his dignity; much less can he think of dividing with them a property too small for his own demands. He must therefore continue to "hunt fortune" through her
meanders, and sometimes, perhaps, in haunts not the most honourable: and he brings up his family with the same views; and all its branches conspire to make an imposing appearance, while the very liveries of his servants are worn out before they are paid for, and, unless he claim senatorial privilege*, he is at the mercy of any tradesman who chooses to make a nice calculation between present pay and contingent future advantage.
Oh! how much, I repeat it, would such a man gain of honour and happiness if he could resolve at once to discard all false notions about what his station requires, and bring his mind to believe that no station can require what God has not given! With a house of half his present rent, or with one house instead of two or more, and all his other expenses reduced in the same proportion, he would be instantly a rich and an independent man. Not one particle
Why does not some high-minded of this odious and degrading privilege? senator bring in a bill for the extinction The only plausible plea for it is, that a senator might be arrested for party purposes; but this might be easily guarded against. It for any debt of less than twelve months' might suffice that he should not be arrested standing, and that had not been a certain number of times formally demanded. If after this he did not pay, or make some compromise, he might be fairly considered as a man too much under shackles to be independent, and his absence from Parliament would be no loss to his country. I do not plead for imprisonment for debt: doubly ought a legislator, who should set far from it: but if others are imprisoned, a better example.
of substantial comfort needs he sacrifice; much less needs he say to his son, "I have procured you such an appointment; and I promised to vote for my friend's bill." He has emancipated himself from the servile trammels of patronage: it matters not to him that one appointment is worth so much more than another, and that by certain convenient proceedings, not considered very dishonourable, he might procure it. He walks in his integrity; his sons and daughters hold up their heads with independence; his wife does not drive circuitously round back streets to avoid the glance of a provoked tradesman: and if he be a Christian, he has tranquil private hours, and a mind free from inordinate worldly anxieties, to devote to his duties in life, and to the blessed intercourse of his soul with his Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer.
may all be resolved into one or other of the Protean forms of pride and selfishness. There is nothing else to hinder it. There is nothing to prevent one man giving up his country residence; another putting down his carriage; and another retreating from a square to a street, or from a house to a lodging, rather than be in debt. The sacrifice may be painful; but it is not impossible; for I am not including cases of real indigence or severe personal privation: and, to prevent any misapprehension of my argument, I confine it to persons raised above immediate want; to those who might live, as many around them do, upon the income they enjoy, if only they would be content to come down from their present elevation, and to bear and do many things, which involve no moral disgrace, but which they have hitherto considered as unsuitable to their station. But then pride intervenes; and it is curious to observe the various forms which it assumes. I have particularly noticed its effects in preventing charity and hospitality. A man has it in his heart to give to some object of beneficence; but as he could conveniently give but a trifle, and that trifle he thought would hurt his consequence, he gives nothing. He wished to see his friends around his board; but as he could not afford sumptuous entertainments, his pride excluded them. How different was the conduct of
I have argued the subject on moral grounds; but when I address myself to those who "name the name of Christ," how much is the argument strengthened! Has the exhortation of the Apostle Paul, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another," ceased to be applicable to believers? Is our blessed Lord's example less binding in this than in other parts of our conduct? Do we find him living after the manner of many who call themselves his disciples? Sooner than the tribute should be unpaid he wrought a miracle; and, so far from inordinately accumulating! He had lived honourably, and, houses and lands, he had not where to lay his head. It is easy to separate what is peculiar in his case from what applies also to his followers; and when this is done, enough will remain to point out what is the line of duty. Let every Christian, who is not only unburdened with debt, but who besides this has not somewhat to bestow in charity, seriously, and as in the sight of God, inquire, "Is there any thing really to hinder my adopting the suggestions which I have now been reading?" I am aware that many difficulties will instantly present themselves; but they CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 358.
so far as his resources allowed, liberally and charitably, on a very moderate income. By a change of circumstances his resources were quadrupled; but, at the same time, his new station, if he was to live as most of those in a similar rank lived, would involve him in at least tenfold expense. He was therefore in danger of becoming virtually a much poorer man than before. But he is a Christian of remarkable simplicity of character, and of great strength and independence of mind. His first act was to convert all his guinea charity-subscriptions into five-guinea
tians, to the glory of God, and as stewards who must give an account of their stewardship.
A CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR.
ON MURAL INSCRIPTIONS IN
subscriptions; his next, to quadruple his former allotment to hospitality; his third, to make such additions to his establishment as appeared to him really requisite under his new circumstances; but these he found much fewer, and less expensive, than some of his best friends conceived necessary for his "decent splendour." He soon became one of the most independent men in his station; and one of the causes of his independence was, that he always acted from conscience, and never from mere fashion. He would put his name down for a sovereign to a charity, where he could not afford more, and where most of his fellows had declined giving any thing because they could not bestow twenty pounds: he entertained twice as many friends as most other persons in his station, because he was content that they should be happy, not that he should appear magnificent: and his single sovereign and simple entertainment were valued and honoured far more than the most ostentatious displays of charity and hospitality. He was rich, because his expenses were within his resources; he was respected, because principle, and not parsimony, was his known characteristic; and he provided for his family without the slightest murmur of his having ever employed the influence of office for any other than the most honourable purposes. But he could not have acted thus, without any temptation to swerve, any inducement to venality or compromise, if he had not considered from the first, not what the world thought his station required, but what his resources conscientiously allowed; and been determined, should any mistake arise in the matter, to correct it instantly before he had involved either his conscience or his property in a snare. I trust your readers will excuse these plain-spoken hints; and happy should I be, if any to whom they may be applicable should be induced, in a spirit of prayer and serious inquiry, to lay them to heart, and to act upon them, as becomes Chris
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. If you have any influence with certain lay officers of our Establishment, called Churchwardens, I wish you would call it into immediate exercise with regard to my own; whom I find very difficult to controul in divers matters pertaining to the weal of my parish, and who are determined at this time to beautify my church after a manner which frowns open defiance upon their vicar's canons of taste. I shall not weary you with the tale of all my grievances; but one is, the resolution of the vestry, under the dictation of the ecclesiastical persons aforesaid, to renew in black and gold an immense Table of Benefactions given to us at sundry times in the last two centuries. This tablet had become, to my great satisfaction, nearly illegible, and was also hung up in an obscure part of the building; so that few persons' attention was diverted to the spelling out its quaint inscriptions; and as a record its necessity has long been entirely superseded by other parochial evidence. However, this instrument is on the point of being renovated; and it is to be suspended in the most conspicuous quarter of the church-in fact, close to the pulpit. Think of such an article as the following in a list of charitable donations blazing on the congregation: Master Simon Younghusband, by a codicil to his will, dated January the first, 1635-6, bequeathed sixteen marks, to be payed out of his lands at Clown's Hill and the Black Ladies, to buy good and substantial dowlas; whereof garments shall be made for twelve poor spinsters of this parish, of the age of fifty-five at the least;