Page images
PDF
EPUB

ness that came upon them, they suffered themselves to be overwhelmed with misery and confusion.

Nor has this calamity been peculiar' to monarchies; for several republics have fallen by the same mischief. That of Lacedæmon, or Sparta, so severe in her constitution, and so remarkable for the virtue of her people, and that for many ages, at last growing slack in the execution of her laws, and suffering corruption insensibly to creep into her manners, she became no more considerable, but weak and contemptible.

The same may be said of Athens, the great school of learning; and of all the republics of Greece, most famous for her virtue and philosophy, when that word was understood not of vain disputing, but of pious living : she no sooner fell into luxury, but confusion and revolutions made her as inconsiderable, as she had been great.

Rome, as she was the greatest commonwealth, so the greatest example of the Gentiles in virtue and vice, in happiness and in misery: her virtue and greatness are commemorated by Austin ihe father, and the latter made the effect of the former. God,' saith he, gave the Romans the government of the world, as a reward for their virtue.' Their manners were so good, and their policy so plain and just, that nothing could stand before them. And truly, they seemed to have been employed by God to punish the im'pious, and to instruct the barbarous nations : and so very jealous was she of the education of her youth, that she would not suffer them to converse with the luxurious Greeks. But carelessness, with length of time, overcoming the remarkable sobriety of her manners, who before seemed invincible, she falls into equal, if not greater miseries, than those that went before her; though she had not only warning enough from their example, but from Hannibal's army, and her great enemy: for one winter's quarter of Hannibal and his army in the luxurious city of Capua, proved a greater overthrow to them, than all the Roman consuls and armies had given them. They that had been victors in so many battles, turned slaves at last to dancers, buffoons, cooks, and harlots ; so as from that time they never did any thing suitable 'to the reputation gained by their former actions ; but fell without much difficulty into the Roman hands. Nay, not long before, Rome herself encountered one of the greatest dangers that ever had befallen her, by the corruption of her own people, in the same place, by the like means: and though this defection was recovered by those that remained entire in their manners, yet after the overthrow of Antiochus, Mithridates, Tigranes, so that the riches and vices of Asia

came with a full stream upon them, the very heart of the city became infected; and the lewd Asiatics had this revenge in their own fall, that they ruined, by their vices, those they were no ways able to resist by their force; like the story of the dying centaur. Thus pride, avarice, and luxury, having prepared Rome for destruction, it soon followed. Virtue now grew intolerable in Rome, where vice dared not for ages to show its face. The worthiest men were cut off, by proscriptions, battles or murders, as if she resolved ipsam virtutem exscindere: she destroyed her own citizens, and sent for strangers to protect her, which ruined her. Which proves, that the kingdom or state, that, under God, doth not subsist by its own strength, prudence and virtue, cannot stand : for the Goths, Hunns, and others, despised to serve those, whom they excelled in power and virtue; and instead of guarding, took their dominion from them. And truly it might rather be called a journey, than a military expedition, to go and pillage Rome; so weak had her vices made her. Thus she, that was feared by all nations, became the prey of all nations about her. So ended that once potent and virtuous commonwealth.

The Vandals in Africa soon became effeminate and lewd, which brought upon themselves speedy ruin. The Goths set up a powerful kingdom in Spain and part of France, and by the sobriety of their manners, it flourished near four hundred years, but its end was not unlike the rest. Two corrupt princes, Vuitza and Roderic, by their dissolute example debauched the people, insomuch that nen ran an bazard to be virtuous: this made their destruction easy to those whom God sent against them; which were the Moors, occasioned by the last of these kings dishonouring Count Juliano's daughter. In the time of his calamity, in vain did he expect the aid of those that had been the flatterers and the companions of his vices : his security (the effect of his luxury) was his ruin. For whilst he thought he had nobody to subdue but his own people, by abusing them he cut oif his own arms, and made himself an easy prey to his real enemies : and so he perished with his posterity, that had been the cause of the mischief which befel that great kingdom. However, so it came to pass, that the remainder of the Goths, mixing with the ancient Spaniards (to that day distinct) recovered the liberty and reputation of the kingdom by an entire reformation of manners, and a virtue in conversation as admirable, as the vices by which their fathers had fallen were abominable. But the present impoverished state of Spain can tell us, they have not continued that vii tuous conduct of their ancestors; the increase of their vices

VOL. III.

с

having decayed their strength, and lessened their people and their commerce.

But why should we overlook our own country? that whe ther we consider the invasion of the Romans, Saxons, or Normans, it is certain the neglect of virtue and good discipline, and the present inhabitants giving themselves up to ease and pleasure, was the cause (if Gildas the Briton, and Andrew Horn may be credited) of their overthrow : for as the first bitterly inveighed against the looseness of the Britons, threatening them with all those miseries that afterwards fola lowed ; so the last tells us, that the Britons having forgotten God, and being 'overwhelmed with luxury and vice, it pleased God to give the land to a poor people of the northern parts of Germany, called Saxons, that were of plain and honest manners.' God is unchangeable in the course of his providence, as to these things : the like causes produce the like effects, as every tree doth naturally produce its own fruits. It is true, God is not careless of the world ; He feeds the young ravens, clothes the lilies, takes care of sparrows, and of us, so as not an hair of our heads falls to the ground without his providence ;' but if men despise his law, hate to be reformed, spend their time and estate in luxury, and persist to work wickedness, he will visit them in his wrath, and consume them in his sore displeasure. To conclude, wars, bloodshed, fires, plunders, wastings, ravishments, slavery, and the like, are the miseries that follow immoralities, the common mischiefs of irreligion, the neglect of good discipline and government.

Nothing weakens kingdoms like vice; it does not only displease heaven, but disable them. All we have said, proves it : but above all, the iniquity and voluptuousness of the jews, God's chosen, who from being the most prudent, pious and victorious people, made themselves a prey to all their neighbours. Their vice had prepared them to be the conquest of the first pretender; and thus from freemen they became slaves. Is God asleep, or does he change? Shall not the same sins have the like punishment? At least, shall they not be punished? Can we believe there is a God, and not believe that he is the rewarder, as of the deeds of private men, so of the works of government ? Ought we to think him careful of the lesser, and careless of the greater? This were to suppose he minded sparrows more than men, and that he took more notice of private persons than of states. But let not our superiors deceive themselves, neither put the evil day afar off; they are greatly accountable 'to God for these kingdoms. If every poor soul must account for the employment of the small talent he has received

from God, can we think that those high stewards of God, the great governors of the world, that so often account with all others, must never come to a reckoning themselves ? Yes, there is a final sessions, a general assize, and a great term once for all, where he will judge among the judges, who is righteous in all his ways. There private men will answer only for themselves, but rulers for the people, as well as for themselves. The disparity that is here, will not be observed there ; and the greatness of such persons as shall be then found tardy, will be so far from extenuating their guilt, that it will fing weight in the scale against them. Therefore give me leave, I do beseech you, to be earnest in my humble address to you: why should ye not, when none are so much concerned in the good intention of it? Thus much for the first reason of my supplication.

Sect. IX. Of the Second Motive to this Address. My second reason urging me to this humble and earnest address, is the benefit of posterity. I would think that there are few people so vicious, as to care to see their children so; and yet to me it seems a plain case, that as we leave the government, they will find it: if some effectual course be not taken, what with neglect, and what with example; impiety, and the miseries that follow it, will be entailed upon our children. Certainly, it were better the world ended with us, than that we should transmit our vices, or sow those evil seeds in our day, that will ripen to their ruin, and fill our country with miseries after we are gone; thereby exposing it to the curse of God, and violence of our neighbours. But it is an infelicity we ought to bewail, that men are apt to prefer the base pleasures of their present extravagancies,' to all endeavours after a future benefit ; which, besides the guilt they draw upon themselves, our poor posterity must be greatly injured thereby, who will find those debts and incumbrances harder to pay, than all the rest we can leave theni under. Upon this occasion I shall take the freedom to say something of Education.

The truth is, we are so much out of order in the education of our youth, that I wish I could say that we had only the sin of neglect to answer for. I fear, the care has been rather to educate them in a way of such vanity, as ends in great inconveniencies here, and must needs find “ vexation of spirit” hereafter. Our universities have made more loose, than learned ; and what extravagancy is begun there, is usually perfected abroad, or at our inns of court at home; that now and then afford us a few able lawyers; but the generality are like the man of old, who returned home seven times worse than he went out.' The genius of this nation is not inferior to any in the world; it is industrious, it is wise, it is honest, it is valiant, yet soft and merciful. And, without partiality, we have men that have excelled in every worthy qualification. But, I must needs say, it has been more owing to the goodness of God, in the disposition of our natures, than the prudence and care of those who have had the charge of their education. It was the saying of a wise man,* " Train up a child in the way he should

be should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This is proved to us every day; but it is in the wrong way, in the way

of idleness, wantonness, and impurity of manners. It is worth while, and high time, to make the experiment the other way; to try what the suppression of vice, and the encouragement of virtue, will do: in this our superiors must begin, and give their example, as well as show their power. There is scarcely any one thing, that so much needs the wisdom of the nation in the contrivance of a new law, as the education of our youth, whether we consider the piety or prudence of our manners, the good life, or just policy of the government. There is such an example of what industry may do, in the practice of the jesuits, ihat I hope the present conjuncture will make the proposal of the thing more welcome to you.

That the interests of the jesuits is the greatest in the Roman church and empire,+ is so far from being doubted, that all protestants wish it were ; it is our trouble, rather than our scruple; it may be, some other orders are of the same mind, being much eclipsed since the rise of this great interest. They first appeared about the time of the reformation, and applied themselves, with all conceivable industry, to secure the tottering papacy against the progress of it. In this attempt they ventured so much farther than any of their predecessors in the church, that they have been esteemed, of merit, the great ministers and governors of the chair for some of the last ages. Indeed, they have almost engrossed the whole power of church and state to themselves in several principalities and kingdoms. To them all other orders seem but small retailers : their great politicians, their philosophers, orators, historians, and mathematicians, are generally found among this society; so that we scarce see any thing of note come out from men of that religion, which is * Prov, xxi. 6. + The jesuits’interest is the greatest in the Roman church.

« PreviousContinue »