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Price Threepence,

To the Readers of Mr. Cobbett’s “Advice,”

with the hope of serving them, the following

pages are respectfully dedicated, by


MY excellent and lamented friend, Mr. Cobbett, has,

in his “Advice to Young Men,” given you invaluable
directions in regard to most of the great concerns of life
that are likely to engage your attention. His “Advice”
is written in that lively and piquant style, for which, as he
truly says, his writings are remarkable, and possesses
such vivacity, that, while it imparts the most useful
knowledge, it beguiles you on, and so fascinates you,
that, when you come to the end, you deeply regret that
his advice was not, like most fashionable novels, ex
tended to three goodly volumes. God forbid that it should
resemble them in any other feature! I say you, for as
I am writing to the readers of Mr. Cobbett, I know that
i am addressing men who have a fund of good sense,
and who, like myself, are unsophisticated by the mawk
ish sensibility of the popular stuff of the present age.
Such were my feelings when I closed the book after a
second perusal; and as you are men of like passions with
myself, and who prefer the truly useful to the showy
and flippant, I suppose I do you only justice in ascribing
the same feelings to you. Influenced by such considera
tions, I was contemplating writing to Mr. Cobbett a
letter of thanks for the benefit conferred on me by his
“Advice,” and requesting him to add at least one more
letter, addressed to members of a religious community.

I know very well that there is a vast deal of caut and

absurdity written and preached on this subject, but
that only shows the greater necessity for some master
spirit, like our departed friend, unfolding to us in a dis
tinct form, the stores of his mind; and in no other form
would Mr. Cobbett set forth any of his thoughts.
When I mention religion, I don’t mean a system of ter
rors invented by the wily and crafty statesman, to e able
him more effectually to curb the expanding mind of his
subject slaves—nor that which, with a grin of satisfaction
and the gripe of the miser, wrings from the hard-working
farmer the tenth of his produce, and from the plough
man, whose children are crying for bread, the tithe of
his wages. No, no; nor that which heaps this ill-gotten
wealth on mitred heads and lordlings, whilst it leaves
its own underlings—poor, grovelling sycophants, they
hardly deserve better fate—in little better condition than
the plundered victims of their sordidavarice. Nor that
which, while it talks of the abso, te necessity of the
spiritual labours of these men, shuts them up in the
hereditary house of legislators, where their flocks are
not allowed to enter, to cushion every legislative enact
ment tainted with the grievous sin of a leaning towards
the people. Nor do I mean that fanaticism which makes
men go about as if they had lost a wife or a child every
day of their lives, and rant and bawl on a Sunday as if
they worshipped a God that had grown deaf of old age,
and was delighted with what must disgust every sensible
man or woman. I do not mean that which cramps the
intellect and restrains the active principle of your mind.
by hedging round the field of investigation, and sticking
up in all directions posts, such as one never fails to see
when passing the skirts of some lord's plantation, “No
road this way”—“Spring guns and man-traps in these
grounds”—“Keep out, or you will be prosecuted,”
&c. &c. No, no, it is not my business, any more than
it was that of my Master in his life-time, to cramp
and restrain your intellect. My business is to unfold,
enlighten, and strengthen every power of your minds;
and I know very well that this is to be done only by
setting you to exercise your minds on every subject that
is worthy of your attention. If any man pretends that
he wants to benefit you in any way, and at the same time
tells you you must not examine into this or the other,
set him down as a rogue, and button the pocket in which
you usually carry your silver; for, if he has not his
eye upon this, it is only because his ear has caught the
rattle of the gold in your purse.
I recollect once meeting with a poor fellow in some of
the hilly parts of that picturesque and sublime county,
Derbyshire, where the whole scenery seems peculiarly fit
ted to promote a lively sense of that religion that I would
recommend to you, and to which I believe this poor fellow
had attained at the time I saw him. A fine-looking fellow
he was, well made,—strong,-athletic, with that peculiar
freshness and glow, and that warmth and openness one so
often sees in men accustomed to follow the plough, or take
a spade in their hands. Well, when I met this man, I
had been rambling about in a country, the very air of
which seemed impregnated with the spirit of liberty, and
every breath of which seemed to give elasticity to the
mind, and to drive away every symptom of slavish de
pendence. At one time I had wound my way at the
base of some huge wall of limestone filled with shells
and other memorials of bygone ages, and seen the
stream struggling to pass apparently impassable barriers;
whilst above, the leafy trees and the sharp pinnacles of
rock were striving for the pre-eminence; and whilst
thus shut out from the world,—the wood, the rock, the
water, and the blue sky, the only objects visible, and the

sweet singing of the little birds the only sound, save the
bubbling of the streamlet, and the light rustle of the
gentle breeze among the leaves of the trees, that broke
in upon the silent contemplation of the mind. Now here
was a place for the cultivation of that spirit of religion
which leads a man to commune with his Maker, whilst
all around is in harmony with his meditations. How
different, thought I, is this feeling from that which re
sults from joining with a large congregation in uphoid
ing the clerk in his point blank contradictions of the
parson. At other times, I passed over the heathered
tops of the hills, and looked down upon fertile vales,
some contracted into a narrow compass, and others
stretching far and wide, with farm-houses and villages
scattered here and there, and the rivers and roads wind
ing along the valleys as on a huge map, stretched at
my feet. On the top of one of these hills I fell in with
something just suited to the then state of my mind:—a
remnant left by our brave forefathers,—those brave men
who, with very rude arms, were a match for Julius
Caesar and his trained legions, after they had overrun
and subdued all Gaul. This remnant was a temple, a
Druid's temple. Now don't imagine a curious lofty pile
with columns, arches, spires, long aisles, and narrow
windows, admitting what has aptly been termed a dim,
religious light: this dimness of religious light suits
very well for our modern spiritual jugglers, but our fore
fathers shut out from their temples neither the light of
heaven, nor the sweetbreath of the morning. The walls
of this temple had consisted of a number of upright
stones placed in a circle, but which some barbarous
modern had thrown down and partly removed for the
sake of repairing his fences. Now, had stones been
scarce in the neighbourhood, I should have been the
last man in the world to have said a word against this

species of appropriation. But where stones are scattered

about in all directions; where, as I myself saw, men are
labouring to gather them together and throw them into
holes, that the land may be clear of them, it did seem
downright and wanton sacrilege for any man to lay his
ruthless hands upon any of these venerable memorials
of our forefathers’ piety. I felt fully as much as my
Lord Lyndhurst feels, when a reforming nation lays its
hand on the rich sinecures of our Irish establishment.
Whether or not there was as much reason for my grief
as for his, I cannot say; at any rate, there was as much
sincerity in it. In the centre of this circle had been an
altar, the stones of which had been thrown down in
like manner. The circular platform was surrounded by
a deep ditch, and the whole was inclosed by a lofty
mound of earth, and the sky, with its curtain of clouds,
had ever been its only canopy. Here had these brave
men met to worship their Maker, whilst they enjoyed the
full tide of sweet air which he sent them over the hills;
and it will require more than a modern retailer of libels
on his God, to persuade me that they are now burning
because they did not worship according to our act of
parliament. If any body affirms this, ask them which act
of parliament they should have adopted: for Cobbett's
“Legacy to Parsons” shows that there are more than
one or two, and that they contradict one another as flatly
as do the parson and clerk. All this, you will easily see,
was calculated to make me feel that here was the spot
where man's spirit would be free, and especially in his
intercourse with his Maker. It was among scenery of
this kind that I met the man in question. He told me
that he had passed his youth without thinking of reli
gion, but afterwards, when his judgment became more
matured, (he was in the vigour of manhood when I saw
him,) he thought it was his duty to attend to religious

matters. He, of course, thought that for this purpose he

must go amongst religious folks, those who made a great
talk about grace, and all the other et ceteras. He went
among the Methodists, and they hugged him about from
class meeting to class meeting, and had special prayer
meetings got up on his account almost every night; but
still he could not be converted, his heart was still as hard
as the rocks that gave him so much trouble in his fields.
The poor fellow told me that he got into a most miser
able plight, and really fancied that he could not be con
verted, that he was one of the outcasts he had heard them
often speak of, that are preparing for eternal burnings.
At last, however, they got a man to come who was fa
mous for making converts. This man stood behind the
awakened sinner, and prayed, and ranted, and raved
about hell-fire, and snatching a brand from the burning,
and all the rest, asking every now and then: “Now, dost
thou feel aught?” “Does thy heart soften aught !”
Having been several times answered “No,” he worked
himself up to an extraordinary pitch, and giving the poor
culprit a heavy blow between the shoulders, “Now,”
cried he, “dost thou feel any thing ''''': “I begin,”
answered the poor man, in a tremulous voice, “to feel
rather warm.” “Praise God,” echoed the magician,
“Lay hold on it. Lay hold on it. A soul saved.”
“What mun I lay hold on ?” cried the awakened farmer.
“Oh! thou munnot talk that way; lay hold on it, with
out asking any questions.” “I cannot lay hold on it, if
} do not know what it is.” “Oh ! thou munnot talk
that way, or thou art a lost soul. Lay hold on it, and ask
nought about it.” The man, however, stuck to it that
he could not lay hold of a thing till he knew what it
was he was to lay hold of, and that night's harlequinade
passed off without effect. He at last thought he would
go to hear an old man who was considered a perfect

- *=------are

hum-drum by these zealous grace men, and a man with

out religion, because he only loved God, and strove to
Jo his duty to man. He liked what he heard, and from
that time felt himself lightened of a burden that had
well nigh broken his spirit. By thinking and talking,
he found that it was not necessary to lay hold of any
thing without knowing what or where it was, and that
to be religious only required him to exercise his facul
ties, and to act as his best judgment dictated. Never,
said he, had he felt so as he did when this first flashed
into his mind. From that day to the time when I met
him he pursued this plan, and was in the condition
I have described. Now, what a burning shame it would
have been had these fellows succeeded in breaking this
man's spirit, and terrifying him with their spiritual
man-traps and spring-guns into a tame submission to
their dictates. He took me to the Methodist Chapel,
and showed me one of the men that had been active in
striving to convert him. I never saw a man that re
minded me more strongly of Judas Iscariot, as represented
in the picture of the Last Supper you may see in the
print shop windows. When I mentioned this, he said
“they had not need hear you, but I believe his own party
would not trust him two pence”!! Once for all, then, I
tell you, never fear their spiritual man-traps and spring
guns; they are generally placed where there is the finest
and the richest fruit, and as that fruit is the common
property of man, walk boldly in, and pluck to your
heart's content. I have tried it many a time, and when
laying my hand on some richly laden bough, I have seen
one of these horrifying notices about spring-guns, I have
plucked the nearest fruit without injury, and always
found it of the sweetest description.
I have already said I was thinking of writing to Mr.
Cobbett, requesting him to let us have another letter on

this subject. This was just at the time when the melan
choly intelligence of his death broke upon me as a clap
of thunder, and dispelled all my hopes. Oh, how my
heart smote me that I had not more promptly set my
hand to that which my heart meditated! But it was too
late: The master spirit was gone, and I knew not
where to turn for a man who should write a supplement
to a work of Mr. Cobbett's. At last I thought the only
way was to throw out my own rough thoughts on the
subject, and leave them to do what good they might.
Should they stimulate a kindred mind to that of our de
parted friend and adviser, to complete a more worthy
supplement, they will do all I require. In the mean
time, here they are, dedicated to the readers of Mr.
Cobbett’s “Advice.”
Well, then, this religion is none of those things I
have mentioned. I am not going to recommend this
church or that chapel-Episcopacy nor Presbyterianism,
Independency nor Methodism. I am not going to enter
into the endless controversy of creeds, nor to write out
my faith for your adoption, with spiritual man-traps at
every outlet. I leave this for the parsons, and, generally
speaking, they are wonderfully skilful at it. Nor shall
I enter into a long genealogical account of the descent
of bishops, and the due imposition of hands, for think
there has been quite imposition enough on all these sub
jects. But it does not follow from this, nor from all the
absurdities that have been perpetrated in the name of
religion, from the exactions of the popes to the mur
derous cruelty of our own lecherous Harry, or to the
hypocritical expectants who mourn at the name of
church reform in our own day, that there is no such
thing as religion, nor that it is not worthy of our sober
attention. I know there is such a thing, and, that it
amply repays the man who is at the pains to study it.


The religion I would teach you is altogether independent

of creeds and clergy. It is true I have my own opi
nions, so have you, and so have all religious professors.
I keep mine, and you are welcome to your own. It is
also true that a man may greatly assist his neighbours
in anything they have an interest in, particularly if he
devotes his whole attention to the subject. And there
fore, in regard to creeds and parsons, I shall leave you
to your own decisions. One of our poets, I think it is
Pope, says:
“For modes of faith let graceless * fight,
His can't be wrong whose life is in the right."
i remember when I was at school with a parson, he
said, “I should beg to correct the poet there, and sub
stitute, his life can't be wrong whose faith is in the
right.” Young as I was, and disposed to assent to the
dictum of the pedagogue, I saw at once the absurdity of
his amendment, and was sure that the faith of his church
then was not right.
What, then, is religion without creeds or parsons?
Why, it is a set of principles in a man's own mind, that
rule and influence his conduct. I find man, as he is,
an intellectual and moral being, having various passions
and desires, interests and duties, and I want to know
the basis of the system on which he is to regulate the
one and discharge the other. We hear of the wisdom
of our ancestors, and all antiquity, in every land, bears
testimony to the truth and value of religion. But inde
pendently of this, our own hearts tell us that we have a
Maker, who demands our first regards, and whose will
should be the basis of all our actions. The child loves
his parent, and if, when he grows to maturity, he forgets
his former obligations, we have uniformly a bad opinion
of his heart and passions. Just so is it with ourselves.
God is our parent, to whom we are indebted not only

for aur first creation, but also for our daily preservation,
and our expectations for the future. Jesus Christ, who
appears to me to have been by far the best and wisest of
all religious teachers, and at the same time the best friend
of man, but was murdered by the priests, was always
depicting God as the father of the human race, and
inviting men to cultivate towards him the feeling of
confiding children. If an ungrateful child is an object
of detestation, what must an ungrateful creature be.
The child's father begot him for his own pleasure; but
ail we know of God tells us that he created man for
man's pleasure and happiness. And how should a child,
whilst young, show his love to his father? Why, we
all know, by showing an affectionate desire to learn
and obey his will. A wise and affectionate father of a
large family will delight to hear his infant children lisp
forth their requests, propose questions for solution, and
open their little minds freely. He will delight to see
their efforts to learn his will and anticipate his desires,
and as they grow up, to see them labouring to improve
their minds and exercise their unfolding faculties.
What would such a father think, if, when he returned
from his labour to enjoy the innocent prattle of his art
less little ones, he found them all drawn up as stiff and
formal as a company of soldiers, each speaking by rule
according to a form of words drawn up by his oldest
child to suit every occasion, which child he found was
denouncing punishment for every departure from the
prescribed form of expression? “Poh! poh!” he would
exclaim, “I can never see the hearts of my children this
way. Throw away the restraint, and let me hear your
own prattle. If you talk nonsense, your nonsense is
pleasanter than this formal and precise stuff. And Tom,
let me hear no more of your threatenings. Who gave
you authority to punish or threaten your brothers or

sisters? I want you to love and help one another, and

you especially, as the oldest, ought to be the foremost
in assisting the others. Now let me see the smile of
contentedness upon your faces, and look grave only
when you are in trouble.” And such is the case, too,
with Him who is the father of us all. He wants no
formal uniformity in the mode of worshipping him, but
that his children should open their hearts freely before
him, and express the convictions of their own minds.
He must delight to see the vigorous exercise of the
noblest faculties he has conferred upon his creatures, and
no more approves of the spiritual man-traps set up by
one portion of his offspring, than the father above al
luded to did of Tom's man-traps, and for the very same
reason. And however far we may advance our intel
lectual nature, we shall still, in reference to our great
Father, be but infants. Among the evils resulting from
one man's making a religion for others, may be men
tioned the spirit of intolerance, bigotry, and self-suff
ciency uniformly fostered in one party,—the hypocrisy
of another, and the debasement and degradation of the
great mass of mankind; besides the want of that indi
"viduality and openness which alone give value to any
expression of attachment.
Now I don't want you to think, that it is of no moment
what are your religious opinions. It appears to me a
matter of great importance. What I wish you to under
stand is, that it is not of much importance to you what
other people's opinions are. There can be very little
doubt that right thinking is likely to lead to right acting.
And the more nearly a man's opinions approach the truth,
the more influential they are likely to be upon his mind.
But then every man must determine what is truth for
himself: for if he takes it upon trust from any quarter,
it will be liable to all the objections above stated. The

expressions used will fail to be the genuine effusions of

his mind, and his tame acquiescence will argue an in
difference to the will of that Being, whose will it ought to
be his highest ambition to learn and obey. There are va
rious ways in which men adopt their religion on authority.
Some take it on the authority of parliaments or eccle
siastical councils; some on the authority of the nation
in which they live, or the fashion of the day; some on
the authority of some favoured parson; and some by
inheritance, as they would receive an estate. I have
sometimes heard fine and touching appeals made:
“What! shall I leave the religion of all my forefathers,
of all my relatives, and of all my friends, that religion
which has supported and consoled them in every situa
tion, shall I leave that and break asunder all the ties of
kindred and affection?” To be sure you must, if that
religion will not bear the scrutiny of enlightened intelli
gence. To be sure you must, if your conscience is not
satisfied with the perfect soundness of your present
system. And, if you have no better reason for the
faith that is in you than what is implied in this appeal,
it is high time that you set about an investigation into
the evidences of your faith. Your own Master has
said, “If a man love father or mother, or son or daugh
ter, more than me, he is not worthy of me.” A sufficient
answer to all such fine and pathetic appeals. The same
thing may be said, with just the same force and propriety,
by the debased heathen, to all your numerous mission
aries, sent over the whole earth at an immense cost, for
the very purpose of persuading men to forsake the reli
gion of their forefathers, and relatives, and friends of
every age, as far back as their most remote traditions
extend. When I hear a man talk in this style, I set him
down at once either as a fool or a knave. A fool, who
knows not the nature and object of religion about which


he professes so much attachment, or a knave who, for

some sinister purpose of his own, wishes to support a
popular superstition, by touching a tender chord. At
the same time, his language shows that he is an incorri
gibly idle fellow, who excuses himself from the trouble
of a strict inquiry by the flimsy pretext contained in
the appeal. And to keep back his neighbours from out
stripping him in his snail-like progress, exposes this
spiritual man-trap, at which he himself laughs when
it is employed against his own party. Depend upon it,
if God is your father—and this is the basis of all true
religion—he will be pleased only with that service which
shows that his children are more attached to him than to
any other, and are in earnest in endeavouring to ascer
tain and to yield obedience to his will. This knowledge,
too, when acquired, must be applied to the regulation of
our own minds, and the promotion of the happiness of
our fellows, by the full discharge of all our moral duties
and obligations. By moral duties, I do not mean simply
honest and upright dealing in all our transactions; these
are by no means to be omitted; but, in addition, there
are many little, and occasionally great, acts of kindness,
that we must perform for one another, to make men
happy and comfortable. I have known some men rigidly
honest and upright in all their dealings, who were never
theless extremely disagreeable as companions, and abso
lutely intolerable in their families. All this sprung from
a want of those numberless little graces and compliances,
which seem trifling in themselves, but which, in the
aggregate, compose the chief part of a man’s happiness.
Where is the happiness of a man whose conscience
acquits him of all unfairness in his transactions, if he and
his wife live in continual wrangling; if his children and
he are always at cross purposes; or, in short, if his
domestic establishment is, in any part of it, thrown into

confusion, as it is sure to be, unless, in addition to his

honesty and sobriety, he cultivates in himself a disposi
tion to please and be agreeable; in short, to yield, in little
matters especially, something to the tastes and desires
of those with whom he has to do, and principally those
of his wife. How many are the families whose peace
is destroyed entirely, and in which wrangling, and com
plaint, and accusation, and reply are standing dishes,
all which has arisen from want of a disposition to yield
something to the desires of one you are sworn in the
presence of God to love and to cherish. I have some
times made it my business, (though, if not very delicately
managed, it is a dangerous affair,) to trace these strong
currents of bitter waters to their source, and in general
I have found them oozing out of an extremely small
opening, which either party might have effectually
stopped by the application of a thumbnail. -

The best test we can give of love to a superior, is a

strict following of the directions he gives us. As Jesús
Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
And he gives the assurance, that if you do so you shall
abide in his love. Now, it is no way necessary for me
to tell you what course of action in your dealings with
your fellow men is pleasing to God. This, men gener
ally know, and as you have read Mr. Cobbett's Advice,
you have therein had abundance of instruction for the
regulation of your conduct in most situations into which
you are likely to come. What I wish more particularly
to impress upon your minds is, that knowing your duty,
you should carefully discharge it out of a feeling of
reverence to your Maker, a desire to obey his will and
obtain his approbation. But, even on this point, I do
not wish to dogmatize and set up a spiritual spring-gun.
Examine the proposition, sift it thoroughly, and leave
no portion of it to be embraced without having first

- - - - - - - - - - > *...*
** ****".

ascertained its soundness. Some one of those who have

an eye to a snug birth in some rural deanery, may per
haps think that this searching and scrutiny will not do.
He must be orthodox, Oh! yes! to be sure he is
right enough. It will not do for him. He must wear
blinders, as a horse trained to harness, and not bound
with the freedom of the wild horse when it scours the
interminable prairies of America. And, in addition, he
must help to kick up a dust, and throw it into the eyes
of his neighbours, whilst he bawls out as loud as he can,
“Beware of spring-guns and man-traps.” But why
should he do this, and you pursue so opposite a conduct?
Why my reader, why, for this obvious reason, that you
are going to two places that lie in opposite directions,
and that your speedy arrival at the place of your des
timation, is likely to prevent his ever reaching his de
sired home. You are in search of true and pure reli
gion, but you never thought that such was the object
of any man who shut his eyes lest the light of truth
should guide him into a path that led away from prefer
ment. You are seeking after religion, and he after a
good living. But, as I suppose that very few of you
will give way to this hypocritical folly, but, that you
will rather earn livings for yourselves, I may leave this
class to shift as well as they may. Search you all things,
and when you have searched, hold fast that which is
true, according to the spontaneous dictates of your own
Without entering at length into the arguments for
natural or revealed religion, I cannot help stating, that
finding man blessed with those noble faculties he dis
plays, knowing to what beneficial purposes they may be
turned, and how they may be warped from their original
purpose to overwhelm nations with misery and discord,
to snatch the reward of his toil from the honest labourer,
B 2

to extinguish the spirit of a nation, and to bind a people

in slavish dependence on the charity of the powers that
be. Knowing, also, that these powers have all been
conferred on man, I can regard him in no other light
than as a morally accountable agent. Accountable to
him who lent those powers for a season, and himself
has told us, that he shall expect them improved when
he demands them back. The present is not the scene
in which moral retribution is fully received. I therefore
look for another, in which there will be strict and im
partial justice distributed to him who has worn a crown,
or removed the night soil from the most obscure parts of
our cities.
“What! (some atheistical unbeliever will exclaim,)
the old bug-bear of immortality, to frighten men into a
tame submission!” No, no, Mr. Atheist, nothing of the
sort You are at perfect liberty to think that you have
no soul worth preserving more than three score years and
ten, and without a decided improvement you very likely
may be right. But you will not easily persuade the bulk
of my readers that such a mind as Mr. Cobbett's has
been brought into existence, and has received all that
culture which fitted it for the most important labours,
that it should go on to the last, gathering strength and
concentrating power, just to be eternally put out, like
the flame of a candle, when it was best calculated to
effect the noblest purposes. You will not easily per
suade them that all the successful tyrants, despots, and
persecuting priests, who have washed their garments
and surplices in the mingled blood and sweat of their
devoted victims, have finally settled their account by
yielding up their breath on a downy bed of state. You
will hardly call that a tool of the powers that be, and
an instrument for the degradation and subjection of
man, which teaches him, that, for the sake of a future

life, he is required vigorously to exercise the powers of

his mind, and strenuously to resist every act of agres
sion on the indefeasible rights of himself or his fellow
man, come they from what quarter they may. So long
as the sun sinks beneath the western horizon, only that
it may burst again in splendour from the chambers of
the east; so long as the rains of Heaven fall, only that
they may again rise in vapour to the clouds; so long
as the leaves of the trees decay on the earth in winter,
only that they may again ascend in the juices of the
plant, the next spring to unfold themselves in all their
beauty; so long as the seed rots in the soil only that its
living embers may be called forth to assume their per
fect form; so long as it is true that nothing can be des
troyed; so long must I, and I believe the generality of
men, think that man decays that he may again burst forth
into life, and that the noblest work of God, the human
mind, is not the only one subject to be destroyed.
Looking, then, as I do, for a future state, I regard
the present life as one of preparation, and the various
scenes through which we pass as so many school-masters
instructing and training our minds. Here, again, we
have another motive to the vigorous exercise of our
powers on every subject that occupies our attention, for
how can any scene train and discipline the mind unless it
occupies it, and calls forth the vigorous exercise of its
powers. A contrary proceeding may induce a tame
submissiveness, but it can never stimulate, exalt, and
improve the faculties. It can never lead to that which
it most delights a father to behold in his children, an
ardent and successful endeavour after mental and moral
improvement. It can never lead to that which God
delights to behold in his creatures. Use then, I again
exhort you, vigorously, your reasoning faculties, in all
things connected with your religion. Use them in


searching into the evidences of your religion. Use them

in scrutinizing its doctrines. Be fully persuaded in your
own mind, and then act in accordance with your own
consciences. Never mind what the world says; never
mind what the parsons say. Listen to them, and if they
can convince you, well; you have gained a clearer con
ception than you had before. But never admit any
principle until you have gained such a conception of it,
until you are satisfied of its truth.
Now, then, having made the necessary enquiries, and
being convinced of the importance of a religion based
upon the honest convictions of your minds, you are
desirous of knowing how this is to influence you in some
of those important transactions on which Mr. Cobbett
fias given you such excellent advice in his letters. And
particularly in the choice of a partner for life, and the
training of children. If you really feel religion to be
important to yourself, you will know that it will be
equally so to every other. If you find that a rational,
cheerful, and enlightened religion is a powerful ingre
dient in your own happiness, and a strong stimulant to:
the faithful discharge of every domestic and social duty,
you will of course feel, that when viewed in the same
rational and liberal point of view, it must necessarily
tend to the production of the same spirit in others.
You would naturally desire, for the comfort and happi
mess of your own house, as well as for the sake of
futurity, that the partner of your lot, and also your
offspring, might have a fellow-feeling with you in this
particular. For reasons that will perhaps be obvious. I
shall take the case of the children first, and afterwards
come to the wife. There have been a multitude of wise
saws about training a child in the way he should go, the
growing of a tender branch in the direction it is bent, the
blank paper state of an infant's mind, and the rest. All

very true, and as stale as my grandmother's Christmas

loaf, that used always to be made a twelvemonth before
hand. Nevertheless, young man, if you do not fully
comprehend these saws, I should recommend you to wait
a little before you think of taking a wife, and becoming
the father of a family. No man of common sense enters
, into such a connexion without having the desire of
seeing his children grow up, and gradually improve as
their strength increases. He wishes to see them fitted
for the station in which they are to move, and so fur
nished as to obtain the respect and esteem of those
amongst whom they are to spend their days. In short,
he wishes them to be provided with every thing that can
minister to their true happiness and comfort. If he
reckons an enlightened spirit of religion among these,
he will be anxious that they should be furnished with
this, nor will he delegate the care of imparting this to
any hireling hand. He will not allow it to be done by
the parson, whatever confidence he may have in him,
nor by the simpering nurse-maid or governess, who, in
t either case, will be thinking more of her own lover than
of the true improvement of his child. He will not leave
it to be driven into his child by the schoolmaster's cane,
in the form of a musty catechism, which perhaps nei
ther can comprehend. No, he will feel it is a work in
which he and the mother of his child must engage. He
will do it by endeavouring gradually to unfold the powers
of its mind, answering its artless enquiries, and so di
recting its attention as to elevate and purify its thoughts.
Now, you will observe, that if it was important that you
should examine for yourself and embrace that system
which your own heart and conscience approved, it will
be no less important for him to do the same. Avoid,
therefore, as much as possible, all dogmatism with your
child, particularly on religious subjects. Reason with

him according to his capacity, and let him see and feel
the justice and reasonableness of all you require of him.
Let him see clearly that you regard religion as a matter
of importance, and one in which you take delight:
for, as I suppose, I am addressing an affectionate and
sensible parent, it is to be expected that under his
training, the child will become attached to that which
his father delights in. To manifest this interest, you
should not only talk to your child about it in a cheerful
and pleasant manner, but you should let him see its
influence in all your intercourse. Never, in your life,
tell your child that any one thing is important to its
happiness, and at the same time allow it to perceive,
that when you have an opportunity of doing that thing.
you allow it to pass away without the performance. If
you do, you will soon lose that proper influence over his
mind, which it ought to be your object to retain. He
will soon learn to esteem your advice as do the congre
gation that of the pampered and bloated parson, who,
after with difficulty having squeezed his huge carcass
into the pulpit, commences an harangue, “Mortify
your members which are in the flesh.” For whatever
may be said of following the light and not the lapthorn,
you may depend upon it, that, in such cases, it is the
lanthorn that generally obtains the preference, and you
will be worse than a madman if you expect a contrary
result in your particular case. I need not tell you to
avoid letting your child witness, in yourself, any de
bauch, or the flagrant violation of any principle you
have taught it to respect; for you know that either this
will cause it to neglect your instructions, or, if the
principle has become fixed, occasion great grief to the
child, that its parent, whom it has hitherto revered,
is pursuing the path of folly, and undermining the
foundation of that esteem which has hitherto been che

rished and preserved. I know not a more despicable

and miserable object than a man who has lost the es
teem and confidence of his own children, especially
whilst those children are wise and good, and in the en
joyment of the good opinion of those who know
them. But depend on it, this esteem you cannot
retain if you teach them one thing and practise another
yourself. Why, is it not just thus that the clergy have
so completely lost the confidence of this and most think
ing nations? Is there any one man who supposes that
parsons would ever have been at so miserable a dis
count in public estimation, if they had lived according
to the valuable directions they deliver from the pulpit?
Undoubtedly not. There is a rooted dislike of hypo
crisy in man's nature, which, whatever may have been
the case in other matters, has undoubtedly survived the
withering effects of the fatal fall. This hatred of hypo
crisy will either undo all you have done, or thus forfeit for
you the esteem of your child. As either of these events
would be more grievous to you than the premature death
of your child, you, of course, determine that it never
shall witness any such dereliction on your part. Now
the only way to ensure success in this matter, is never
to be guilty of any such grossness: for if you do yield,
however carefully you may strive to conceal the matter
from your child, he is sure, sooner or later, to make the
discovery, and the time of concealment will serve only
to make more palpable the hypocrisy of the parent.
This point, therefore, I shall regard as settled as the
laws of the Medes and Persians, which change not, or
as any species of property that has once come into the
possession of the ecclesiastics, and which no lapse of time
can possibly alienate. I shall consider you engaged in
earnest in endeavouring to impart to your child, or ra
ther to awaken in him, an enlightened spirit of religion.

And here again. I would remind you, of what it has been

a principal object with me to inculcate, that you clearly
give your child to understand, that no religion can avail
him which is not cordially embraced, and fully approved
by his own conscience: that it is his business to satisfy
his own mind and follow his own conviction, rather than
to follow in the leading-strings of parental or any other
authority. As in all other cases, this must be exem
plified by practice, as well as enforced by precept. This
must be done by showing that you respect integrity and
uprightness in whatever party they may be found; that
you esteem the homest expression of conviction, though
the conviction may be contrary to yours; and that you
detest hypocrisy, even when masked under the profes
sion most accordant with your own. I do not wish you
to understand, that you are studiously to conceal from
your child your own opinions and feelings. On the
contrary, you should converse with him on the subject,
and if you have carefully attended to the directions
about not prejudicing his mind and enforcing the dutics
of examination and liberality, you need be under no
apprehension of his yielding to dogmatism, or of his
embracing any doctrine that his conscience does not
approve. You have taken the right method of developing
his faculties and rousing into action his intellectual
powers, and you may leave these to produce their wonted
effect. -

Now, in all this, you will perceive that the benefit

will be considerably diminished, unless you are cor
dially seconded by the mother of your children. It
is with her they most frequently converse; it is her
milk, at least so I hope, that has nourished their in
fancy; it is in her arms they have been carried, and
from her they have learned the first accents of their native
tongue, and the first ideas that have entered their un
22* - -


sallied minds. All this, and the various points of

attachment between a child and its mother, show clearly,
that the condition of a child's mind must, to a consi
derable extent, be dependent on the character, habits,
and modes of feeling of its mother; and if these har
monize not with those of the father, his labour will be
incalculably increased, and its effect proportionably di
minished. It was a conviction of this fact that led me
to postpone this part of the subject until the other had
been disposed of The importance of having a wife
whose mind is refined by an enlightened and cheerful
religion, can be appreciated only when it is known how
influential she is in the formation of the character of
your children. I have heard it said by some, though I
think they strain the matter too far, that children grow
like their parents in features by looking at them so fre
quently; but of this I am satisfied, that they grow like
them in mind and feeling by the constantly operating
influence of mind on mind. It is only on such a prin
ciple that the durable and defined traits of national
habits of thought, which are to be found in all coun
tries, can be accounted for.
Well, then, you are convinced of the importance of
rational piety in a wife for the sake of your children,
independently of your own peace and happiness, or the
desire of renewed spiritual intercourse in a future
world. But if poor fellow, you happen already to have
linked yourself to a woman devoid of this necessary
qualification for a good mother, why, you must make
the best of a bad bargain. I hope you reckon very
little of the twaddle of some would-be lights of the
world, who, having pledged their faith to one, and
subsequently fixed their affections on another, would
urge an uncongeniality of disposition, as enough to blot
out a vow registered in the court of heaven. You most
- C
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- - - - -


likely knew of the defect when you entered into the

engagement, and, if not, it was your own fault for taking
so important a step without due circumspection and cau
tion. And therefore, whether you knew or not, you
have no right, after having gained your purpose, after
having induced the woman to resigr her person to you,
to turn round and talk to her of : 1 uncongeniality of
disposition. It is your business to make her life as con
fortable as you can, and, if you have taken a wife
unqualified for the discharge of the duties of a mother,
what you have to do is, to remedy the defect in the best
way you can. If she has no sense of religion, you must
strive to excite and cherish one. You must show her
the importance of the subject. Above all, strive to lead
her to admire its elevating and humanizing effect in
your own demeanour. But if you have the decision yet
to make, in addition to the qualifications mentioned by
Mr. Cobbett, let this also be regarded, that the woman
manifests a sense of religion; the stronger the better. I
do not advise you to select one who goes moping about,
or sighing, or ranting. I do not recommend a bigoted
attachment to a party. These, and particularly the lat
ter, are often worse than nothing. A bigoted man
denouncing his fellow-man, is sufficiently hateful; but a
woman, thus doing violence to all the more amiable
characteristics of her sex, is a sight one would well wish
to be spared. What father could bear the thought,
that in his absence, his opinions and conduct should be
exposed to his children as beacons to warn them of dan
ger and perdition, that regrets and fears should be con
nected with the idea of their father, and that all this
should be done by the mother of his children. Yet a
man must make up his mind to bear all this calmly, if
he once links himself to a woman who is bigotedly
attached to a party, and limits the favour of her God to


those who think with her. Whatever be your own

peculiar religious opinions, look especially in a wife for
what I have advised you to cultivate in yourself, an
enlightened spirit of liberality and an expansive charity
extending to all opinions conscientiously entertained.
Thus qualified you may trust to her for the faithful dis
charge of her duties; and, especially during your
absence, the training of your children's sensibilities. I
shall be much deceived, in short, if you do not find her
not only a valuable assistant, but a principal actor in the
important work. You will easily perceive that the
nearer she approaches to yourself in her opinions, the
better chance you have of an harmonious concert in .
your united labours and in your whole lives. But if you
are enamoured of a woman, holding opinions widely
different from your own, and fancy that your happiness
will be promoted by a union with her rather than with
another, why then marry her. But in this case, let
there be no concealment, no hypocritical compliances,
and no arbitrary or compulsory requirements. In a
transaction of this nature, it is of the highest importance,
that in treating with her who is to be your partner,
your counsellor, your help-mate, she should be treated
"in a spirit of fairness, candour, and openness, as one
whom you think fit to be entrusted with a knowledge of
all your concerns and feelings. Depend upon it, the
fewer after discoveries that are made to the disadvantage
of either party, the better for the happiness of both.
Let not, therefore, this transaction be conducted in the
spirit of two contending generals, with their troops
drawn out in battle order, and ever watching in oppor
tunity of taking an advantage of each other, b t rather,
in the spirit of friendly parties consulting on a common
project, undertaken for the common benefit of both; a
project in which the success of one is the happiness of

the other; and in which, the discomfiture of one is the

misery of the other. If you obtain an extorted compli
ance, what good can you anticipate as the result? And
if you make one, what degree of esteem or confidence
can you expect from one to whom you have proclaimed
that you have barðred away your conscience or prac
tised hypocrisy.
I have been anxious to enforce the views contained in
this letter, from a conviction, that if your moral princi
pies, all the principles of your conduct, are based on
religion, on a sense of your duty to God, and a desire to
secure his favour and your own eternal happiness, they
will rest on a lasting and sure foundation. They will
then preserve their vigour and efficacy in every situation
and in every state into which it is possible you can be
brought. But if you neglect this, your virtue will be
flickering and unstable from the want of some constantly
acting principle, which shall make you regard the pri
vate transactions of your life as much responsible, and
as much important in the destiny of your happiness, as
those which are performed in the sight of man.
Accept this further piece of advice in the spirit in .
which it is offered, by one who would subscribe himself,