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be obedient. A child of mine shall not cast off my authority, while under my roof.
Pray, Sir, said my father, what is her specific crime ? It is possible I may be a mediator between you. I have only heard in general terms from Mr. Law that she keeps company with the scum of the earth. If that be the case, undoubtedly, Sir, you have great reason to be dissatisfied; and I myself shall think her a very improper companion for my children, lest they should be corrupted by her evil example.
I am afraid, Sir, you misunderstand me, replied Mr. Law; by the scum of the earth I did not mean wicked persons, but persons in mean circumstances.
According to this definition, Sir, said my father, the
his apostles; for they were persons in mean circumstances. The same also might be said of Socrates, of Epictetus, and of the wise, and virtuous Cincinnatus, who was called from the plough to be a Roman Dictator. I am amazed, Sir, that you who are a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus, should call the virtuous poor the scum of the earth.
Mr. Law, Sir, answered Mr. Barnwell, only intended to show the impropriety of my daughter's keeping company with persons so much below her. · True Sir, said Mr. Law; and I maintain that she not only acts imprudently in so doing, but that to imprudence she adds disobedience to her parent, who insisted upon her promising that she would not go among that kind of people any more.
Is going among poor people, Sir, replied my father, a crime of so black a dye? This surely you cannot mean to insinuate. The crime, if there be any, must lie in the occasion of her going to see them. Was it to do them good or to injure them?
Sir, cried Mr. Clifford, I believe I must unravel this affair, since I perceive my friends cannot persuade themselves to tell you the plain truth. The case is this. Miss Barnwell was left at Islington with her aunt, who is a dissenter, while her father went to Jamaica, and she cannot be satisfied now unless she is permitted to go to the meet. ing. And ought we to wonder at it? I tell my friend Barnwell that he is certainly in the fault; for if it is a crime to go to a dissenting meeting-house, why did he leave her with a dissenter? For my part, however, I see no evil in it: for though they are in general poor people who attend the meeting in country villages, yet they are the sober and industrious poor. I do not mean to reflect upon Mr. Law: but if you examine the character of the poor people throughout the kingdom, and find a poacher, a hedge-breaker, a hen-roost robber, or one that goes to no place of worship above three or four times in a year, you may almost take it for granted that he is a churchman. I believe none of you will accuse me of being prejudiced in favour of any religious sect; yet I cannot help perceiving that the poor among the dissenters, in general, are persons of understanding, decent, industrious, civil, sober, and valuable members of society. If dissenting teachers, without the aid of government, have the art of civilizing a considerable part of the labouring poor, I think the whole nation is obliged to them.
I have no dislike to dissenters, said Mr. Barnwell. I would have every person go to that place to which he has been accustomed: but my pride will not suffer me to permit my daughter to associate with such low people.
It seems, Sir, replied my father, I have at last discovered your daughter's unpardonable fault. Being influenced by the just fear of him who made her, and knowing that she as well as you and I must soon stand before his judgment-seat, she wished to act agreeably to her conscience, and to spend her sabbaths where she at least thought she heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, friend Barnwell, you have acted not merely improperly, but with great inhumanity. Your child asked for nothing but what the laws of God, of reason, and of her country allowed, and you yourself also would have allowed, as you acknowledge, only on account of your pride. I have heard of the wicked, in his pride, persecuting the poor, and of people being deceived by the pride of their heart: but I never heard that pride made a person wise. In reality there is not a man upon earth whose folly is not equal to his pride. Discard, therefore, this troublesome inmate, and be persuaded to think that you will be wise and happy in propora tion as you are humble.
Is there no such thing then, Sir, cried Mrs. Barnwell, as a virtuous pride ?
I have heard of such a thing, replied my father, but I scarcely know what it is. Pray, Madam, how would you define it?
Why, Sir, replied she, hesitating, a virtuous pride is is-a virtuous pride.
Mrs. Barnwell means, Sir, said Mr. Law, that there is a propriety to be observed in all our actions, and that every person ought to keep up his dignity by associating with none but those of his own rank. Miss Barnwell was not only born in one of the higher orders of the community, but has had a genteel education, and is a lady of good natural sense, and of considerable reading. It is truly astonishing that she could so far underrate her own judge ment, as to suppose she could learn any thing from a fel. low, who, a few years past, was only a shoemaker. It is undoubtedly a species of insanity, that persons, at least of her rank and education, should leave their parish church, to hear an undigested harangue, delivered by a fellow, who, I should suppose, does not understand the common rules of grammar. Are not gentlemen of a liberal education, intended for the ministry, and regularly ordained, better qualified to teach Christianity than an ignorant mé. chanic ?
With Mr. Neville's leave, said Mr. Clifford, I will answer this question. My father assenting, he thus began : If, Sir, I had a son whom I wanted to be taught the languages, mathematics, logic, metaphysics, &c. I certainly should send him to you rather than to the shoemaker:
but if I sincerely wished him to be made a Christian, I should prefer the cobbler to you. I have had a liberal education myself: yet who that knows me would think of sending their children to me to be taught Christianity ? They perhaps might prefer your teaching, Sir, to mine. The reason is, I am too honest for this world. I don't profess to be any thing but what I am. I have not that worldly wisdom, that necessary prudence, which many have, and so I am termed an infidel. I accept the appellation. I put on the cap, because I know it fits me. Yet, Sir, if any man were to dare to tell me that I am not as good a Christian as you, or as nine tenths of those who are brought up to the art and mystery of preaching, I should be highly offended. If you ask why I think thus? I answer, that any fool may know what is told him. You all tell me that you don't believe the Scriptures, or nine tenths of you at least, as I said before. You tell this to me, and to all the world, by your actions, which are better proofs than words. If you believed a heaven or a hell, would you dare solemnly to subscribe articles which you do not believe, or pretend to give your unfeigned assent and consent to them for the lucre of a paltry living? I could not myself do it, infidel as I am ; and if I had done it, I would throw up my preferments, and restore my ill-gotten goods, as inany worthy men have done. To subscribe one set of doctrines, and to preach another, is the greatest prevarication. The clergy indeed tell us that the sin lies with them who require subscription. But I do not think so; for if you take the wages, you ought to do the work your masters set you about. The conscience of those surely is not very scrupulous, who for the sake of gain declare their belief of
the guilt upon those who hold out the temptation. Call the articles which you are obliged to subscribe, articles of peace, or by whatever name you choose, falsehood is falsehood still, and will be so to the end of the world, however it may be gilded and adorned to silence the clamours of conscience. Besides, my friend, your religion and the re
ligion of Jesus are two different religions. Only endeavour to convert a Jew to Arianism or Socinianism, and he will tell you as I do, that you are no Christian. .
Observe I do not blame you for disbelieving the articles; but I blame you for declaring that you believe them when you do not, and for exclaiming against the poor shoemaker, who I doubt not does believe them. I have long considered Christianity as a fortress built for the protection of tyranny; the dignified and benificed clergy are its officers, the poor curates are the common soldiers. Hence proceeded that wise proverb, No bishop, no king; that is, no tyrant: for a good and patriotic king stands in need of no such aid.
Come, come, Mr. Clifford, cried my father, you are too severe upon the clergy.
O no, Sir, replied he, Mr. Law knows I cannot help speaking the truth, and he has long ceased to be offended at any thing I say. It is reasonable that it should be so ; for he knows that he is at full liberty to say any thing to me, provided he speak the truth.
Mr. William Neville, said Mr. Clifford, you look very serious. If that dear girl had been here, whose loss I assure you has grieved me very much, and affected my son beyond any thing you can conceive, I say if she and her friend Miss Barnwell had been here, Mr. Law would not have come off so easily. But he and I have boxed one another so often, that we don't feel each other's blows.
I am truly sorry, Sir, answered I, that a person of your sense and education should avow your disbelief and dislike of Christianity. You say that it has been used as a fortress for the protection of tyranny. I grant that it has been perverted by being made a state religion : but which of the mercies of God has not been abused ? It is not in its own nature calculated to be an established religion ; for it never can become so, except it be first exceedingly corrupted.
Pray, Sir, said Mr. Law, how do you prove that? Though I do not care to dispute with Mr. Clifford, because