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" and this instruction may be given at an early
period, before they are fit for labour, or at times when they are not otherwise employed'.
There must ever be in all communities a considerable majority of poor, to perform the various labours of life. In return for their temporals, we should communicate to them of our spirituals. If they, by their labours, furnish us with "the meat that “ perisheth,” it is but reasonable that we, especially as it can be done without much labour, should supply them with “that meat which endureth for ever." If they "give us to drink,” we should in return present them with “the water springing up unto " eternal life.” Their spiritual necessities are the same with those of the rich; they have equally souls to be saved, and stand therefore equally in need of the knowledge requisite to save them.
This being perfectly known to the God of the spirits of all flesh, he has not been unmindful of them in the dispensations of his grace, but has adapted his Gospel to the wants of all alike.
The evidence, on which its authority stands, is not veiled froin vulgar sight by the clouds of metaphysical subtlety; it depends not on intricate arguments, and tedious consequences, which the poor have neither leisure to study, nor ability to understand. Jesus could not have performed the miracles which he did perform, unless God had been with him; and if God were with him, then the doctrines taught by him, under the sanction of those miracles, were also of God. The apostles believed in him,
M'Farlan's Inquiries concerning the Poor, p. 246.
because they saw his mighty works; and we believe them when they tell us so, because they could not have deceived the world if they would, and would not have done it if they could. A little plain common sense sees all this; and more need not be seen to induce any man to become a Christian.
As the evidence is stated, so the doctrines of salvation are taught, with a condescension to the capacities of all. To render them at the same time intelligible and agreeable, they are delivered in the pleasing form of history, and illustrated by comparisons and similitudes taken from the most familiar objects in the natural world, and the concerns of ordinary life. A poor man is thus taught, in a week, more than philosophy could teach those that were most learned in it, for a series of ages : he is taught to know God, and his various dispensations to mankind i and, with respect to morals and the duties of society, he is taught-what every wise government would wish that its citizens might all be taught.
Accordingly we find it given as one mark of the divinity of the Gospel, and as the circumstance which discriminates it from the wisdom of the world, that it was preached by Christ and his apostles to the poor. Not for the reasons insinuated by unbelievers, ancient and modern, that they were either afraid or ashamed to preach it to the rich and the learned ; but because the former were clear from many prejudices and evil passions which adhered to the latter, and therefore were better disposed to receive it. These received it first, and had the honour to lead the way to the others, who followed after, in due
time, from every rank and order of life, as they could be brought to give it a fair and impartial hearing. But be it ever remembered, when this argument is under discussion, that the truth of God must finally rest upon its proper evidence, and not upon the incident of its being accepted or rejected by those to whom it is proposed. Such acceptance or rejection must afterwards be accounted for, from the different tempers, dispositions, and circumstances of mankind. And it requires but a very moderate degree of acquaintance with human nature, to assign adequate reasons why, when the same doctrine is preached to two different persons, one should put it from him, and depart “sorrowful,” while the other embraces it, and " goes on his way rejoicing.”
If it be inquired whether the poor be capable of making any considerable proficiency in the school of Christ? experience will answer in the affirmative. With a little plain instruction, they can apprehend the articles of faith as contained in the apostles' creed, and the rules of practice as laid down in the commandments. They can learn to trust in God, their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier: they can give him thanks for what they have, and pray to him for what they want. They can love their Saviour, and for his sake show kindness to their brethren, whom he has redeemed. One may often behold, among the lower ranks, that attention to the distresses of each other, that earnest desire, and, what is of more worth, that unwearied endeavour to remove or alleviate them, which do credit to the human heart, wherever they are found. A poor person, after labouring through the day, will pass the vight in watching with a sick neighbour; while the rich pursue their pleasures, the scholar retires to his library, and the virtuoso to his cabinet, safe from the importunity of the wretched, and where the voice of anisery never penetrates. Let not the pride of wealth or science look down with contempt upon the poor, since they often possess and exhibit that charity which is the end of knowledge, the comfort of society, the balın of life; and by his proficiency in which, every man is to be tried, at the judgement of the great day.-" Hath
not God chosen the poor?" Let not MAN, then, despise them.
Upon these grounds it is, that the Society has been employed, for near a century, in disseminating Christian Knowledge among the poor. Thousands and ten thousands of children have been snatched from the jaws of ruin, from ignorance and vice, and educated in the fear of God, in the charity-schools originally fostered and reared through Great Britain and Ireland, by their parental care, and which, at this time, contain above forty thousand. To this part of the plan the following testimony is borne by a celebrated prelate, in a charge delivered so long ago as the year 1716, though published only a few inonths since. He is speaking of the great and necessary duty of catechising—“The late encou
ragers of Charity Schools are never enough to be “commended for their care and diligence on this
head, by which they have deserved well of God " and man, and have done the church of England,
"and the pure religion of Christ, excellent service; “ and verily they shall not fail of their rewardk.”
A multitude of Bibles, Common-prayer-books, and a variety of religious tracts, adapted to the capacities and spiritual exigencies of the poor, amounting, within the space of the last fifty years only, to near three millions, have been printed and distributed by the Society, not only through England and every part of Wales, the isles of Scilly and of Man; but their care has been extended to the Greek church in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt, as well as to the conversion of the Heathens in the East Indies, where schools and missions have been established for that purpose. Translations of the proper books having been made, the inhabitants of these different countries have had opportunities of hearing and celebrating, “every one in his own language, the wonderful works of God.”
I do not enlarge upon these several objects of the Society's bounty, because, in general, the world is now well acquainted with the nature of them; and the particulars may be seen in the annual account of its proceedings. That much good has been effected, is known to all those who have been concerned in carrying these benevolent designs into execution, or who have by any means happened to fall within the reach of their influence; but how much, it never will, nor can be known, till manifested by that day which shall manifest all things.
* The learned and elequent bishop Atterbury's Charge to the Diocese of Rochester, in Mr. Nichols's publication of the Epi. stolary Correspondence, &c. vol. ii. p. 260.