Christian Theology

By Adam Clarke

Chapter 22


JUSTICE and equity require that servants should have proper food, proper raiment, due rest, and no more than moderate work. This is a lesson that all masters throughout the universe should carefully learn. Do not treat your servants as if God had made them of an inferior blood to yours.


Mr. S. Wesley, jun., had not only the friendship of Lord Oxford, but his intimacy also; and frequently dined at his house. But this was an honour for which he was obliged to pay a grievous tax, ill suited to the narrowness of his circumstances. Vales to servants, that sovereign disgrace to their masters, were in those days quite common, and, in some instances, seem to have stood in the place of wages. A whole range of liverymen generally stood in the lobby with eager expectation and rapacity when any gentleman came out from dining at a nobleman's table; so that no person who was not affluent could afford to enjoy that privilege. One day on returning from his lordship's table, and seeing the usual range of greedy expectants, Mr. Wesley addressed them thus: "My friends, I must make an agreement with you suited to my purse; and shall distribute so much (naming the sum) once in the month, and no more." This becoming generally known, was not only the means of checking that troublesome importunity, but also of redressing the evil; for their master, whose honour was concerned, commanded them to "stand back in their ranks when a gentleman retired;" and prohibited their begging! Many eminent men have endeavoured to bring this vile custom into deserved disgrace; Dryden, Addison, Swift, &c.; but it still continues, though under another form: leaving taverns out of the question, (where the lowest menial expects to be paid if he condescends to answer a civil question,) cooks, chambermaids, waiters, errand boys, &c., &c.: all expect money, if you lodge in their master's house but a single night! And they expect to be paid, too, in proportion to the treatment you have received from their master, and in proportion to his credit and respectability, and not to your means or purse. The gentry of the land should rise up as one man against this disgraceful custom, as the Board of Excise have done against the bribes taken by their officers. Let a servant, on being hired, hear, "Your wages for which you agree shall be duly and faithfully paid: I shall not require the aid of my friends to make up the deficiencies of my servants. The day on which I am informed that you receive any thing from my guests, you shall be dismissed from my service." If all agree to act thus, this grievous tax upon our friends will soon be abolished. There are few cases where the friendly visit does not cost him who pays it five times more than his maintenance would have done at his own house.

It is possible for an unfaithful servant to wrong and defraud his master in a great variety of ways without being detected; but let all such remember what is here said: "He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he has done:" God sees him and will punish him for his breach of honesty and trust. Wasting, or not taking proper care of the goods of your master, is such a wrong as God will resent. He that is unfaithful in that which is little, will be unfaithful in much, if he have opportunity; and God alone is the defence against an unfaithful servant.

A good servant never disputes, speaks little, and always follows his work.


[10] As I have found very little on this subject in Dr. Clarke's writings, I shall perhaps be excused if I refer the reader to a small work recently published, the title of which is, "A Present for Female Servants: or, the Secret of their getting and keeping good Places."—S.D.