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or School. And there let them be committed to the care of those, who, like Mr. Wells, the excellent Superintendant of our School, "have no hesitation in saying, that every boy under the age of fifteen years, and somewhat older, however bad he may have been, CAN BE REFORMED;" and we shall find these schools to be imme. diate, and great blessings, in the relief and comfort which they will bring to poor and greatly distressed parents. I know how great is this relief, for I have had opportunities of witnessing it. And I have had the happiness, too, of seeing children, whom I have been instrumental in placing there, and who had seemed to be past recovery, restored to virtue and usefulness, and giving unspeakable joy to the hearts of parents, whom they had most deeply distressed by their departures from virtue. In a few years, we shall see the effects of these institutions, in the diminished numbers of our street vagrants, and of the inmates of our prisons. The interest of the whole community should be enlisted in favour of these schools; and a minister of the poor may do much, both to enlighten the public judgment respecting them, and to assist the parents of disobedient children, in securing this provision for their salvation and happiness. These institutions furnish, to my mind, one of the noblest triumphs which our religion has obtained over sin. If established as extensively as they should be, and supported by public favour as they deserve to be, they will be for temporal and spiritual salvation to many ten thousands.
From these let us turn to the second great division which we have made of the poor. I mean to those who ought not to be sent either to a work-house, or to an alms-house.
Take from society at large all the classes of the poor who ought to be separated from it, and there will still remain a very large class of those who will be occasionally dependent on charity, and some who will even be wholly dependent on the care and benevolence of others, who yet ought to be aided at home. There are virtuous poor, who have seen better days, who have been reduced, if not from affluence, yet from a comfortable competency of the good things of life, to want, and some to great want. There are many also who have been dependent all their lives upon their daily labours, and who have lived respectably, and have been respected by all around them, but by infirmity or age are able to make but little provision, and some of them can make no provision, for the absolute necessaries of existence. And there are others who are always ready to do what they can for their own wants, but who are sometimes taken off from their work by sickness, and sometimes are greatly embarrassed and distressed by a failure of demand for their labours. There are cases, as I have said, and they are numerous, in which mothers are doing all that they can for the education of their children, who yet obtain but little assistance from their husbands, and who must be assisted to feed and clothe their children, and with fuel in the winter, and sometimes even in the payment of their rent, towards whom it would not only be unjust, but also injurious to society, to send them to an alms-house, or to a work-house. All these, and some not as deserving as these, but who are striving for. self-support, and on whom moral influences may be successfully exerted at home, should be left principally to private charity. This I hold to be a position of great importance. It
is clearly the dictate of the spirit of our religion. And if we can only bring the more favoured classes of society to understand their true interests, in regard to these classes of the poor, which are in truth no other than their Christian duties towards them, there would be no difficulty in providing for every suffering family among us.
Our overseers of the poor are empowered, to a certain extent, to supply the very poor with the necessaries of life, at their own homes. The amount thus expended in the year 1828, was 8473 dollars. This is right; but there is still left a great amount of want, which must be met by private charity. The great question on this subject is, how is this charity to be excited, and exercised? Would that I had a voice, or a pen, by which I might rightly affect the public mind on this great question! I should then have done a good, by which my life would indeed have been made a blessing, as well to the rich, as to the poor. But I shall not have laboured in vain, if I can persuade even a few to their duty.
Let me say, then, that my principal dependence for this division of the poor would neither be
benevolent societies, useful as they are when wisely directed; nor upon the contributions of the city overseers of the poor. Nor, if they would, can they meet, all or nearly all, the strongly pressing, and greatly distressing wants, of very many of the indigent. Nor is it desirable that these agents of others should, even if they could, have the exclusive care of the poor. Those in the more favoured classes of society are indeed but too slow to learn the duties, which grow out of the relation they sustain to the humbler classes of their fellow crea.
tures, as beings of a common nature with themselves; although, from the exercise of Christian benevolence towards them, they would receive, in their own moral improvement, and in all that will exalt them in the view of God and angels, quite as great a good as they will ever be able to impart. The lesson should indeed be repeated often, and strongly, and with a distinctness not to be misunderstood, from every pulpit, and in every family, that the poor are our fellow immortals; who are to be rescued from their dangers, comforted in their troubles, and relieved in their necessities, not merely by a few agents sent to them as the representatives of the kindly feelings, and the Christian sympathy of their fellow beings around them; but, by the personal cares and efforts of all, who have the means, and opportunities of doing them good. Our great want is, and I believe that it is the great want, with respect to. the poor, in all the cities in Christendom, not so much of benevolent societies, as of a more widely diffused spirit of personal interest in the work of improving their condition, by improving their characters. , Awaken this spirit, and bring it into action, and an incalculable sum of vice and misery will be prevented.
The questions arise, what is the good which is thus to be done? and, how are we to qualify ourselves to perform it? To one proposing these inquiries, I would reply, let your first care be for those, who belong to your own house. And never flatter yourself with the delusion, that you are exercising Christian benevolence, when that which you bestow in charity is fairly the property of your creditor. Are you willing, however, to do what you can for others? Begin with your domestics, to whom you not only owe something, but
much more, than the payment of their wages. You may do much to improve their moral and their religious character; and, perhaps, to save some of them from the most terrible ruin.--You have also beggars, who come to your houses for food. Do you know who they are, and whether you are doing good, or evil, by what you may there bestow upon them? Or, have you a right to refuse them your kindness, merely because you know not whether they may not abuse it? Or, is it too much to ask of you, to learn of them where they live, and to avail yourself of an hour of leisure to visit them? Or, do you feel too little concern about them, to care who they are, or whether their wants are supplied; or whether they are worthy, or not, of your bounty? Who has made you to differ from these beggars? To whom do you owe all that you have yourself received? : And is it too much to ask of you, as a return for God's goodness to yourself, that you will personally acquaint yourself with the condition, and do something for the improvement, of a few of those poor among your fellow creatures? In aiding a poor parent in keeping her children at school; in teaching a filthy family to become cleanly; in exciting an idle family to industry; in providing work for a family, which knows not where to obtain it; or by obtaining a place in the country for a boy, or a girl, who, if left with its parents, would soon fall into vagrancy and vice; or by one or another of many offices of kindness, which will cost but little either of time or money, you may gradually, but greatly advance the virtue and happiness of a family. You may save a poor boy from dishonesty, from intemperance, from a life of guilt and wretchedness; or a poor girl from dishonesty, pollution, and utter ruin.