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Friday, January 25, 2013

Church Thermometer, from the Tatler

"The Church Thermometer, which I am now to treat of, is supposed to have been invented in the reign of Henry the Eighth, about the time when that religious prince put some to death for owning the Pope's supremacy, and others for denying transubstantiation.  I do not find, however, any great use of this instrument until it fell into the hands of a learned and vigilant priest or minister, for he frequently wrote himself both one and the other, who was sometime vicar of Bray.  This gentleman lived in his vicarage to a good old age, and, after having seen several successions of his neighboring clergy either burned or banished, departed this life with the satisfaction of having never deserted his flock, and died vicar of Bray.  As this glass was first designed to calculate the different degrees of heat in religion, as it raged in Popery, or as it cooled and grew temperate in the Reformation;  it was marked at several distances, after the manner our ordinary thermometer is to this day, viz. 'Extreme Hot, Sultry Hot, Very Hot, Hot, Warm, Temperate, Cold, Just Freezing, Frost, Hard Frost, Great Frost, Extreme Cold.'

       It is well known that Toricellius, the inventor of the common weather-glass, made the experiment in a long tube which held thirty-two feet of water;  and that a more modern virtuoso finding such a machine altogether unwieldy and useless, and considering that thirty-two inches of quicksilver weighed as much as so many feet of water in a tube of the same circumference, invented that sizeable instrument which is now in use.  After this manner, that I might adapt the thermometer I am now speaking of to the present constitution of our Church, as divided into High and Low, I have made some necessary variations both in the tube and the fluid it contains.  In the first place, I ordered a tube to be cast in a planetary hour, and took care to seal it hermetically when the sun was in conjunction with Saturn.  I then took the proper precautions about the fluid, which is a compound of two very different liquors;  one of them a spirit drawn out of a strong heady wine;  the other a particular sort of rock-water, colder than ice and clearer than crystal.  The spirit is of a red fiery colour, and so very apt to ferment that unless it be mingled with a proportion of the water, or pent up very close, it will burst the vessel that holds it, and fly up in fume and smoke.  The water, on the contrary, is of such a subtle piercing cold, that unless it be mingled with a proportion of the spirits, it will sink almost through everything that it is put into;  and seems to be of the same nature as the water mentioned by Quintus Curtius, which, says the historian, could be contained in nothing but the hoof, or, as the Oxford manuscript has it, in the skull of an ass.  The thermometer is marked according to the following figure;  which I set down at length, not only to give my reader a clear idea of it, but also to fill up my paper.
       The reader will observe that the Church is placed in the middle point of the glass, between Zeal and Moderation;  the situation in which she always flourishes, and in which every good Englishman wishes her who is a friend to the constitution of his country.  However, when it mounts to Zeal, it is not amiss;  and when it sinks to Moderation, is still in a most admirable temper.  The worst of it is, that when once it begins to rise it still has an inclination to ascend;  insomuch that it is apt to climb up from Zeal to Wrath, and from Wrath to Persecution, which always ends in Ignorance, and very often proceeds from it.  In the same manner, it frequently takes its progress through the lower half of the glass;  and when it has a tendency to fall, will gradually descend from Moderation to Lukewarmness, and from Lukewarmness to Infidelity, which very often terminates in Ignorance, and always proceeds from it.
       It is a common observation that the ordinary thermometer will be affected by the breathing of people who are in the same room where it stands;  and indeed it is almost incredible to concieve how the glass I am now describing will fall by the breath of a multitude crying 'Popery;' or on the contrary, how it will rise when the same multitude, as it sometimes happens, cry out in the same breath: 'The Church is in danger.'
       As soon as I had finished this my glass, and adjusted it to the above-mentioned scale of religion, that I might make proper experiments with it, I carried it under my cloak to several coffee-houses and other places of resort about this great city.  At Saint James's coffee-house the liquor stood at moderation;  but at Will's, to my great surprise, it subsided to the very lowest mark on the glass.  At the Grecian it mounted but just one point higher;  at the Rainbow it still ascended two degrees;  Child's fetched it up to Zeal, and other adjacent coffee-houses to Wrath.
       It fell in the lower half of the glass as I went further into the city, until at length it settled at Moderation, where it continued all the time I stayed about the Exchange, as also while I passed by the Bank.  And here I cannot but take notice that though the whole course of my remarks I never observed my glass to rise at the same time that the stocks did.
    To complete the experiment, I prevailed upon a friend of mine, who works under me in the occult sciences, to make a progress with my glass through the whole island of Great Britain;  and after his return, to present me with a register of his observations.  I guessed beforehand at the temper of several places he passed through, by the characters they have had time out of mind.  Thus that facetious divine, Doctor Fuller, speaking of the town of Banbury near a hundred years ago, tells us it was a place famous for cakes and zeal, which I find by my glass is true to this day as to the latter part of this description;  though I must confess, it is not in the same reputation for cakes that it was in the time of that learned author;  and thus of other places.  In short, I have by now by me digested in an alphabetical order all the counties, corporations, and boroughs in Great Britain, with their respective tempers, as they stand related to my thermometer.  But this I shall keep to myself, because I would by no means do anything that may seem to influence any ensuing elections.
       The point of doctrine which I would propagate by this my invention, is the same which was long ago advanced by that able teacher Horace, out of whom I have taken my text for this discourse:  we should be careful not to overshoot ourselves in the pursuits even of virtue.  Whether zeal or moderation be the point we aim at, let us keep fire out of the one, and frost out of the other.  But alas!  the world is too wise to want such a precaution.  The terms High-church and Low-church, as commonly used, do not so much denote a principle, as they distinguish a party.  They are like words of battle, that have nothing to do with their original signification;  but are only given out to keep a body of men together, and to let them know friends from enemies.
       I must confess I have considered, with some little attention, the influence which the opinions of these great national sects have upon their practice;  and do look upon it as one of the unaccountable things of our times, that multitudes of honest gentlemen, who entirely agree in their lives, should take it in their heads to differ in religion."

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