for their excellence, to be tributes highly acceptable to the Deity.

There be many among them who, from a religious motive, neglect learning, and apply themselves to no study whatever. Nor do they allow themselves any leisure, but are perpetually occupied ; believing, that by the good which a man doth, he secureth to himself that happiness which comes after death. Some of these visit the sick; others mend highways, clean ditches, repair bridges, or dig turf, gravel, or stones. Others fell and cleave timber, and bring wood, corn, and other necessaries, on carts into their towns. Nor do these serve the public only, but individuals, and that more than the slaves themselves. For, if there be anywhere a rough, difficult, and sordid undertaking, from which most are deterred by its labour and loathsomeness, if not the despair of accomplishing it, they voluntarily and cheerfully take it in hand, thereby greatly easing others, and prescribing to themselves a life of hard labour, yet without valuing themselves upon it, or diminishing the credit of others to increase their own. And the lower they stoop in such servile occupations, the more are they esteemed by


There be two kinds of these people. Some live in singleness and chastity, and abstain from flesh. Thus weaning themselves from all the pleasures of this life (which they account hurtful), they pursue, even by the most difficult and painful methods possible, that bliss which they hope

S a

for hereafter ; and the nearer they approach it, the more .cheerful and earnest are their endeavours after it.

Another kind of them, though they be no less sollicitous of toil, yet they prefer the married to the single state. These deny not themselves the comforts of that state, and think the propagation of their species is a debt they owe to human nature and their country. Nor do they avoid any pleasure which hindereth not labour, and eat flesh the more willingly as it recruits them for it. The Utopians esteem this the wiser sect, but the other the more holy, They would indeed laugh at any one, who on mere rational principles would prefer the single to the married state, or a life of labour to one of ease ; but they ever admire and reverence such as do it from religious motives, there being nothing in which they are more cautious, than in deciding rashly on that subject. Those, therefore, who lead these severe lives, are called in their language Buthrescas, which answers to our term religious orders,

Their priests are men of eminent piety, and therefore few in number. For there are only thirteen in every town, one for every temple. But when they go to war, seven of these attend them, and seven more are chosen in their place, the former reassuming their office on their return, and those who served in their absence attending on the high-priest (who presideth over the rest) till vacancies oco cur by death. They are chosen by the people in the same manner as the magistrates, by suffrages, privily given, to

prevent faction ; and when chosen, they are consecrated by the college of priests. The care of every thing sacred, the worship of God, and a due inspection into the manners of the people, are committed to them. It is a reproach to be sent for by any of them, or to be spoken to by them in private, it ever creating suspicion. Yet they have only to admonish the people, for the power of punishing offences resteth entirely with the prince and other magistrates,

The severest thing the priest doth, is to exclude those who are desperately wicked from joining in their worship; and no kind of punishment is more dreaded by them. · It loads them with infamy and fills them with secret horror ; such is their reverence of their religion ! Nor will their bodies remain long exempt from their share of suffering. For if they do not very soon satisfy the priest of the sincerity of their repentance, they are seized by the senate and punished for their impiety.

The education of youth is in the hands of the priests. They are less solicitous of instructing them in letters, than of forming aright their minds and manners. They use all possible means of infusing very early into the tender and flexible minds of children, such opinions as are both good in themselves, and will be useful to their country. For, when deep impressions of this kind are made at such an age, they follow man through life, and conduce materially to the tranquillity of the state in which he lives, which may

suffer from nothing more than from the vices arising from bad sentiments. Their priests, if they be not women (for that sex is not excluded from the office, though rarely chosen, and then not unless she be a widow and old), have for their wives the most excellent women in the country.

None of the magistrates have greater respect shewn them than the priests; and should they commit any crime they would not be questioned about it, their punishment being left to God and their consciences. For the Utopians deem it unlawful to lay hands on any man, how wicked soever, who hath been particularly dedicated to God. Nor find they any considerable inconvenience in this ; for, having so: few priests, and those chosen with much caution, it must be very unusual to find one, who was raised to such a dignity merely from his virtue and goodness, degenerating into corruption and vice. Even should such a thing happen, for man is changeable, yet the smallness of their number, and their having no authority but what arises from the respect paid them, nothing of consequence can happen to the public from the indemnity they enjoy.

They have so few of them, lest numbers sharing in the 'honour, the dignity of the order, so highly esteemed by them, might sink in reputation. They also think it difficult to find many of such exalted goodness, as to be equal to that dignity which demands the exercise of more than common virtue. Nor are these priests in less veneration

among neighbouring nations, as you may imagine by what I am going to relate.

When the Utopians engage in war, the priests who accompany them to the battle, apparelled in their sacred vestments, kneel during the action near the field, and pray first for peace, next for victory to their side, and lastly for little effusion of blood on either side. Is the victory in their favour, they run in among their troops to restrain their fury. If any of the enemy see or call to them, they are preserved; and such as can touch their garments, have not only their lives but their fortunes secured to them. On this account, all neighbouring nations consider them with such reverence, that they have frequently been no less able to save their own men from the fury of the enemy. For it hath sometimes happened, when their army hath been in disorder and Aying, and the enemy running to the slaughter and spoil, the priests have interfered, separated them, and stopped the effusion of blood ; and a peace hath been concluded on reasonable terms. Nor is there any nation about them so fierce or barbarous, as not to reckon the persons of the priests sacred and inviolable.

The first and last day of the month and of the year, is with them a festival. They measure their months by the course of the moon, and their years by that of the sun. The first days are called in their language Cynemernes, and the last Trapemernes, which terms answer in our lan. guage to the festivals which begin and end the season.

« VorigeDoorgaan »