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many fall a prey to vice, who have been well taught in their childhood, what must become of thuse who are left to their natural ignorance? We are all sensible, that bodily blindness is a miserable detect; hut certainly ignorance, which is the blindness of the soul, is much worse; because it is more dangerous to fall into a profligate course of life, than into a pit ; and worse to lose the soul, than to bruise the limbs : and when ignorance is led by passion, the blind leading the blind, what but ruin can be expected to the mind and manners ?
The poor, who with their children are in a place where they may have them taught for nothing, and despise or neglect the opportunity, will have both their own ignorance and that of their children to answer for. God is said to have winked at the ignorance of the heathen world, because it is not expected that men should see in the dark : but such ignorance, as may be prevented, and is not, wil be considered as a love of darkness. We think it a very preposterous passion, when a white inhabitant of Europe falls in love with a black savage; but it is more unaccountable that a Christian, who is born among the children of light, should be foud of that ignorance, which
was the misfortune and curse of the heathen world.
Now we have taken a prospect of these évils, let us consider the obligations we are under to find a remedy for them. And the first obligation is that of gratitude; when we remember our own dependence upon God, and the blessings we receive from his bounty: If we have any portion among the good things of this life; it is he who giveth us all things richly to enjoy; and the offerings we make out of what we have are so many acknowledgements that we have nothing but what we have received. All the beasts of the forest, says he, ure mine, and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills. No sacrifice therefore could be offered to God under the law, but of that which was already his own. And the case is the same now: God is the real proprietor of all things; the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof : so that we can make no return to God, but of that which was his own before.
The obligation we are under to do this, is farther evident on a principle of distributive justice. That inequality of possession, which is both wise and necessary, does not proceed from any respect to particular persons ; for the mercies of God are over all his works ; but God has been pleased to put the allowance of one man into the hands of another, for a trial of his virtue; so that the rich are guilty of fraud and injustice if they either keep it, or bestow it wantonly upon themselves. Withi hold not good, saith the wise man, from them to whom it is due*; as if charity were not a gift, but a debt. As such it is spoken of in the New Testament: Charge them that are rich-that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; the original means, willing to make that common, whicli God intended to be so; at least, amongst the household of faith; in which they that have most are stewards for the rest.
But our obligations as Christians is plainest of all from this consideration; that God doth not require us to do any thing for the poor, but what he himself hath done for us, in a sense infinitely superior. If he commands us to visit them, he himself, as the day-spring from on high, hath visited us: If he commands us to give bread to the hungry, lie himself hath given to us the bread of lite. Who is it that commands us to clothe the
* Prov. iii.
naked, but he who hath put the best robe upon his returning prodigal, and clothed us with the garments of his own righteousness, which shall never decay? as a sign of which, the clothes of his people did neither wear out nor wax old, neither their shoes upon their feet, in their journey through the wilderness. Who is it that expects we should teach the ignorant, but he who hath taught us by his holy word, opening to us all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and giving light to them that sit in darkness ? Few exhortations will be wanting to those who believe these things, and are sensible of their own obligations to God as the Saviour of sinners: the love of God is already shed abroad in their hearts, and charity to man will be the fruit of it. Happy are they who act on such liberal and sublime principles : it is their pleasure, as well as their honour to be doing good. Far from looking with an evil eye upon their poor brethren, they rejoice that there are any poor to be relieved; they would never wish to be without them; and they are thankful for the opj ortunity of assisting them; and if the
poor do not look for them, they look for the poor.
But besides the obligations which arise from the considerat cn of wa' is jast, we are enccuraged to do good to the poor fiom
the expectation of future blessings. And here let me observe, that no kind of charity answers better in this world than that which provides for the teaching of the children of
It shews them the way, and it gives them the power of becoming useful members of society; it introduces them to the knowledge of God's holy will and commandments; it sets before them the reasons, the measures, the rewards of those duties, by means of which they are to prosper now, and be happy hereafter. Superior talents, with good principles, may lawfully raise the poor above the level of their birth; but it cannot be expected that this should happen, without the advantage of an early education. I have known some instances of poor children, who have attained to credit and affluence, by the help of that learning, which they obtained from the hand of charity; and who lived to make returns of gratitude to the persons from whom they had received it. Where the seed of instruction has fallen into a proper soil, there have undoubtedly been many examples of the same kind, which never came to the knowledge of myself, or of any that are here present, But with all this, we are to consider, that if a charitable education