Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

to the great Governor of the Universe, we have no other way of giving the glory due, than by proclaiming, as we are enjoined to do, that "Jehovah is good, and that his tender mercies are over all his "works"." Godlike are the labours of charity; and they who are employed in them are, without all doubt, employed in "well doing."

The external indigence of our fellow-creatures, as it strikes directly upon our senses, is apt to be first and principally noticed. The case of a brother or a sister destitute of food and raiment, of habitation, health, and comfort, calls upon us, for commiseration and assistance, in a voice scarcely to be resisted by the man, much less by the Christian. And to the praise of our age and nation be it spoken, no pains are spared to relieve all such objects of bodily di


But the plan of the Society extends farther, and penetrates deeper into the constitution of human nature. It enters the cottage of clay, and reaches the inhabitant contained within, the immortal guest doomed for a while to sojourn here below; succouring the infirmities and necessities to which, during such its temporary abode upon earth, the soul of man is become subject. For there is an inward and spiritual, as well as an outward and visible, poverty; and that we may conceive proper ideas of the former, the sacred writers have described it under figures and images borrowed from the latter. There is a species of food necessary for the support

b Psal. cxlv. 9.

of the mind, after which it is said to "hunger and "thirst." There are garments, with which the spirits of just men appear clothed and there is a state of the soul which, through all its powers and faculties, is a state of health and salvation. Nothing of a corporeal kind was certainly intended in that reproof given by the Spirit to the church of Laodicea" Thou sayest I am rich and increased in "goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not "that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, "and blind, and naked." An attention to this intellectual distress and misery, and the proper methods of relieving them, is excellent in proportion to the value of the subject, and the more dangerous consequences of their being neglected; and therefore constitutes the sublimer part of charity. When Christ healed bodily diseases, he did it principally that he might manifest his ability to heal those that are spiritual:-"That ye may know that the Son of

man hath power on earth to forgive sins, he saith to "the sick of the palsy, Arise, take up thy bed, and

go unto thine house"." With particular disorders of the bodily frame some are afflicted, and some are not; and they whom our Lord healed of one, yet died afterwards of another. The saying in which all men are interested, and which ought, therefore, "of all 'men to be received," is, "that Jesus Christ came "into the world to SAVE SINNERS."

[ocr errors]

But surely in vain did he come, unless the knowledge of this salvation be conveyed to those whom it

Rev. iii. 17.

d Matt. ix. 6.

e 1 Tim. i. 15.


This knowledge is not born with us, nor are we to expect it by inspiration from above. Heaven has revealed it once, but left it from thenceforth to be communicated by man to man. He whose lamp has been kindled, is enjoined to kindle those of his descendants, that so the Gospel may run and be glorified, to the end of time. This indeed has been the process ordained from the beginning; for of the patriarchal religion, derived from Adam by tradition, may that be said, which the Psalmist hath said of the same religion in sum and substance, as it was republished in writing by Moses: "God established a testimony, he appointed a law, "which he commanded our fathers that they should "make known to their children, that the generation "to come might know them, even the children "which should be born, who should arise and de"clare them to their children; that they might set "their hope in God, and not forget the works of "God, but keep his commandments f."

Through the degeneracy and apostasy of nations, losing the knowledge originally imparted to their ancestors, it will sometimes happen, that parents can no longer instruct their progeny, or educate them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, in which they themselves perhaps have not been educated. Ignorance, instead of knowledge, is then transmitted from generation to generation, of which each grows worse than the preceding: till, at length, "darkness covers the land, and gross darkness the

f Psal. lxxviii. 5, 6, 7.

"inhabitants thereof;" a darkness that may indeed be felt, and that ought to be bewailed, as it is a sure forerunner of ruin and excision." My people are

[ocr errors]

destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee; seeing "thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also "forget thy children "."


But suppose this not altogether the case. It is among the evils of external poverty, and one of the greatest of those evils, to be the cause of that other poverty which is internal. The poor, unless care be taken of them in this respect by the rich, are by that very circumstance often deprived of the means of knowledge. Much of their time is of necessity other wise employed; and when they enjoy any little intervals of leisure, opportunities and instructors are wanting,

It may be said, perhaps, What occasion have the poor for knowledge? For knowledge of many kinds, none at all: they are better without it: ignorance for them is preferable. But there is an ignorance-that above mentioned-which is attended with effects very prejudicial to the welfare of society in this world, and that of individuals in the nextproductive of vice and ill manners, of confusion, and every evil work. Good may be known without being practised; but it cannot be practised if it be not known.

"If we inquire," says a late writer, in his admirable treatise on the subject of the Poor" if we

[blocks in formation]

"inquire into the state of those countries where "the people are grossly ignorant, we shall find the "most unhappy consequences arising from their

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

deplorable situation. The savages in America are "but in a small degree raised above the irrational "tribes the populace in Portugal, whose whole knowledge consists in a credulous superstition, are now the most cruel and barbarous people in Europe; and the lower class in London, who are in "general very ignorant, are ripe for every crime. "Had the same degree of knowledge of which some "complain as improper for the commonalty, been

[ocr errors]

imparted to them, there is reason to believe it "would have civilized their manners and corrected "their morals. Some of our late eloquent and ju"dicious historians have set in a very striking view "the barbarity and misery of the middle ages, "arising almost wholly from the ignorance which "then overspread Europe.

[ocr errors]

"Wherever gross ignorance prevails, there either gross vices or absolute stupidity will abound. It "is by a school education chiefly that we receive the "rudiments of knowledge. Though men may be, " and it is hoped are, improved by public discourses,

yet, unless they have received some previous in"struction, they can reap but little benefit from "them. It appears, then, to be an object of great importance to the public, as well as to individuals, "that the meanest of the people should be taught to read, and be instructed in the duties of religion "and morality. This seems to be one of the most necessary steps towards the civilizing of a country;

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »