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Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of christianity, is, the clear gain of one day in seven, which is now entirely lost, and consequently the kingdom one seventh less confiderable in trade, business, and pleasure ; beside the loss to the publick of so many stately structures, now in the hands of the clergy, which might be converted into playhouses, market-houses, exchanges, common dormitories, and other publick edifices.
I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word, if I call this a perfect cavil. I readily own there has been an old custom, time out of mind, for people to assemble in the churches every Sunday, and that Thops are still frequently shut, in order, as it is conceived, to preserve the memory of that ancient practice ; but how this can prove a hindrance to business or pleasure, is hard to imagine. What if the men of pleasure are forced, one day in the week, to game at home instead of the chocolate-houses? are not the taverns and coffee-houses open ? can there be a more convenient season for taking a dose of physick ? are fewer claps got upon Sundays, than other days ? is not that the chief day for traders to sum up the accounts of the week, and for lawyers to prepare their briefs ? but I would fain know, how it can be pretended, that the churches are misapplied ? where are more appointments and rendezvouses of gallantry? where more care to appear in the foremost box, with greater advantage of dress? where more meetings for business ? where more bargains driven of all sorts ? and where so many conveniencies or incitements to sleep?
There is one advantage, greater than any
of the foregoing, proposed by the abolishing of christianity; that it will utterly extinguish parties among us, by removing those factious distinctions of high and low church, of whig and tory, presbyterian and church of England, which are now so many grievous clogs upon publick proceedings, and are apt to dispose men to prefer the gratifying of themselves, or depressing of their adversaries, before the most important interest of the state.
I confess, if it were certain, that so great an advantage would redound to the nation by this expedient, I would submit, and be filent: but will any man say, that if the words whoring, drinking, cheating, lying, stealing, were, by act of parliament, ejected out of the English tongue and dictionaries, we should all awake next morning chaste and temperate, honest and just, and lovers of truth. Is this a fair consequence? or if the physicians would forbid us to pronounce the words pox, gout, rheumatism and stone, would that expedient serve, like so many talismans, to destroy the diseases themfelves ? are party and faction rooted in men's hearts no deeper than phrases borrowed from religion, or founded upon no firmer principles ? and is our language so poor, that we cannot find other terms to express them? are envy, pride, avarice, and ambition such ill nomenclators, that they cannot furnith appellations for their owners ? will not Heydukes and mamalukes, mandarins, and patshaws, or any other words formed at pleasure, serve to distinguish those who are in the ministry, from
others, who would be in it if they could ? what, for instance, is easier than to vary the form of speech, and instead of the word church, make it a question in politicks, whether the monument be in danger ? because religion was nearest at hand to furnish a few convenient phrases, is our invention so barren, we can find no other? suppose, for argument sake, that the tories favoured Margarita *, the whigs Mrs. Tofts, and the Trimmers Valentini; would not Margaritian, Toftians, and Valentinians be
tolerable marks of distinction ? the Prasini and Veniti, two most virulent factions in Italy, began (if I remember right) by a distinction of colours in ribbands; and we might contend with as good a grace about the dignity of the blue and the would serve as properly to divide the court, the parliament, and the kingdom, between them, as any terms of art whatsoever borrowed from religion. And therefore I think there is little force in this objection against christianity, or prospect of so great an advantage, as is proposed in the abolishing of it.
It is again objected, as a very absurd ridiculous custom, that a set of men should be suffered, much less employed and hired, to bawl one day in seven against the lawfulness of those methods most in use, towards the pursuit of greatness, riches, and pleasure, which are the constant practice of all men alive on the other fix. But this objection is, I think, a little unworthy of so refined an age as ours. Let us argue this matter calmly: Į appeal to the breast
• Italian singers then in vogue.
of any polite free-thinker, whether, in the pursuit of gratifying a predominant passion, he has not always felt a wonderful incitement, by reflecting it was a thing forbidden : and therefore we see, in order to cultivate this taste, the wisdom of the nation has taken special care, that the ladies should be furnished with prohibited silks, and the men, with prohibited wine. And indeed it were to be withed, that some other prohibitions were promoted, in order to improve the pleasures of the town; which, for want of such expedients, begin already, as I am told, to flag and grow languid, giving way daily to cruel inroads from the spleen.
It is likewise proposed as a great advantage to the publick, that if we once discard the system of the gospel, all religion will of course be banished for ever ; and consequently, along with it, those grievous prejudices of education, which, under the names of virtue, conscience, honour, justice, and the like, are so apt to disturb the peace of human minds, and the notions whereof are so hard to be eradicated, by right reason or free-thinking, fometimes during the whole course of our lives.
Here first I observe, how difficult it is to get rid of a phrase, which the world is once grown fond of, though the occasion that first produced it, be entirely taken away. For several years past, if a man had but an ill-favoyred nose, the deep thinkers of the age would, some way or other, contrive to impute the cause to the prejudice of his education. From this fountain are said to be derived all our foolish notions of justice, piety, love of our country;
our opinions of God, or a future state, heaven, hell, and the like : and there might formerly perhaps have been some pretence for this charge. But so effectual care has been since taken to remove those prejudices, by an entire change in the methods of education, that (with honour I mention it to our polite innovators) the young gentlemen, who are now on the scene, seem to have not the least tincture left of those infusions, or string of those weeds; and, by consequence, the reason for abolishing nominal christianity upon that pretext, is wholly ceased.
For the rest, it may perhaps admit a controversy, whether the banishing of all notions of religion whatsoever, would be convenient for the vulgar. Not that I am in the least of opinion with those, who hold religion to have been the invention of
politicians, to keep the lower part of the world in awe, by the fear of invisible powers ; unless mankind were then very different to what it is now: for I look upon the mass or body of our people here in England, to be as free-thinkers, that is to say, as staunch unbelievers, as any of the highest rank. But I conceive some scattered notions about a superior power, to be of singular use for the common people, as furnishing excellent materials to keep children quiet when they grow peevish, and providing topicks of amusement, in a tedious winternight.
Lastly, it is proposed, as a singular advantage, that the abolishing of christianity will very much contribute to the uniting of protestants, by enlarg