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may be frequented, and the gambling-house, however it may be designated, and the brothel, and every sink of sin which sends out its foul miasmata to poison the soul; nay, in proportion as public sentiment can be combined even in the cause of the highest order of worldly morality, these moral nuisances will be felt to be objects, which call for a general and uncompromising determination for their removal. To whom, then, are we to look for this union of public sentiment? Who are to bring these great subjects and interests into those strong lights, in which they are to be seen in their true character? To whom has society a right to look for this great moral service? I should feel no difficulty in giving a most explicit answer to these questions. But I will only say, that we have many who could do much in this work. Let each one, then, feel his own responsibility to do what he can in it, and there will be among us a public sentiment, which will be far more effectual than legal enactments, and which will save hundreds, and perhaps thousands, from moral destruction.
The doctrine has too easily been admitted, and too long acted upon without dispute, that there must be every where, and especially in cities, a certain amount of poverty and crime. This doctrine, however, as it is commonly received, is as false as it is vague, and as disgraceful to those who support it, as it is ruinous to those whom it wickedly leaves to the evils from which they might be rescued. It has done, and continually is doing, more to paralyze effort in the highest departments of human benevolence, and more to repress, and even to extinguish, the highest and best sympathies of our nature, than any, or than all the other causes, which have restrained the enlightened and virtuous in their cares and endeavors for the best good of their fellow men. But what, I would ask, is the amount which there must be of these evils? Or, what are the forms in which these evils must necessarily exist, and grow, before any means are to be used to check, or to extirpate them? A very few not more than five or six years, – have passed, since it was thought, and said, that no hope could be more vain, than that of arresting the progress of intemperance. And yet, what has been done in this work ? Not half the quantity of ardent spirits is probably now consumed in New England, that was consumed here five or six years ago. And how has this wonderful change been accomplished? By an excise on spirits, or by inflicting fine or imprisonment on those who abused them? No. But alone by enlightening and quickening public sentiment concerning the evil, and by a determined and persevering exertion to do what might be done for its remedy. The check which has been given to this deadly evil is indeed far less in our cities, than in the country. But something has been done, and much more might be done, for its removal here. We have not indeed yet learned the true mode of giving a strong moral impulse to the masses of men who are brought together into cities ; and there is also a withering feeling, which is but too common, of the impracticability of acting powerfully on those masses, separated as they are from one another by their conditions, employments, tastes and interests. But if it be true, that there is this impracticability, it is itself evidence, that in congregating into cities, we are violating a plain purpose of the moral providence of God. If it be true, then every philanthropist, and every Christian, at whatever sacrifice of personal and worldly interest, is bound to separate him
self from cities, any further than he may be called to them to do what he can to check their growth, and to lessen their numbers. Who, indeed, can deliberately admit this doctrine, and not acknowledge, that the greatest benefactor to a country would be the man, who should be the instrument of breaking up every city in it, and as widely as possible of scattering its inhabitants? The truth, however, is, that the absurdity of the doctrine is not seen and felt, because it is not distinctly brought before the mind in its actual character and consequences. Let cities be left to grow up under the unchecked influences of mere municipal ordinances, and of a mere worldly morality, and they will become great sores' upon the body politic, which, like those of the natural body, may become incurable. But there is a stage in their advancement even to the greatest danger of this result, in which they are not to be despaired of; and in which the evil that adheres to them may be arrested, and healed. I believe, indeed, that they may be made the centres as well of the purest and highest religious and moral influences, as of the highest intellectual culture, and of the greatest advancement in arts and science; and that the most vigorous growth of all the christian virtues may even be made a characteristic of cities. But this, of course, will not, and cannot be, while the unchristian state of public sentiment respecting human interests and duties continues to be what it has been. Here is the true source of the evil, and here, too, the only effectual means of its correction.
I know not how to speak worthily upon this great topic ; or how to speak of it in a manner to excite the interest which it claims, and to secure its rightful and most salutary influence. With some, as I well know, even
a reference to an unchristian state of public sentiment, as the cause of the peculiar moral dangers of cities, and to christianity as the only redeeming power by which they may be saved from an ever increasing corruption, exposes him who makes it to any designation, but that of a practical man ; while by others the suggestion may be received without disapprobation, but, at the same time, without even a momentary disposition to add anything to his contribution to this most important of the means of public happiness. At once, however, for illustration of what I mean, and for confirmation of its truth, I would ask, why is it that a parent in the country dreads to send his child to be an apprentice in the city? And why is it that even parents in the city, who have all the advantages of home for moral influence over their children, are yet so often obliged to live in the most wearing anxiety concerning them ? And why are parents here so often brought to suffer the severest anguish of the soul, that of a self-condemning conscience alone excepted, by the disappointment, the blast of parental hope, in the moral ruin of their children? Is it because the sources of this deadly influence are unknown ? Who knows not, or who might not know, whence come the intemperance, and the profligacy, so alarming in the city, and the dishonesty by which they are supported ? I have referred to their causes ; and I ask, in view of them, are the evils springing from them irremediable ? Let these evils, and their causes, be spread before every family; and let the wise and virtuous among us, each in the way best suited to himself, contribute his influence to the advancement of the greatest good of those around him. Then will the ministers of law be indeed ministers of God for good to
the people. Let government be secure of support in strong measures for the maintenance of public vritue, and thosc measures will be taken. Licenses will then be restricted as they should be ; and profligacy, not among the poor only, but among all classes, will be punished as it sbould be. At present, however, law is hardly a check upon these evils. I can but glance at subjects, which demand a faithful exposition. But I most earnestly entreat the attention of those, who can give this exposition of them.
I will only add, that the rich know not how much they lose, even of the means of a vast accession to their personal happiness, by the distance at which they too generally live from the poor; by the absence of that sympathy, which, principally through their own fault, the employed would otherwise feel with his employer; and, by the neglect of the frequent opportunities which are occurring, by an intimate and kind intercourse with a few poor families, of performing for them, at a very small cost, some of the most grateful offices of life. Let those whom God has blessed with abundance feel for the poor, as christianity intends that they should feel for them, and not only will there be a ministry for the poor of cities, which will comprehend within its cares every poor family within them; but every individual, according to his means and opportunities, will feel a responsibility for the improvement and happiness of some of the less favored of his fellow beings around him. Let this sentiment be extended, and the great question in regard either to poverty, or crime, will not be, what is the pecuniary appropriation to be required? but, alone, how is the greatest ultimate good to be attained? An enlightened public sentiment has achieved