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hungry multitudes by a miracle, he was himself dependent on the liberality of those who ministered unto him. So noble and divine was this voluntary poverty of the Son of God, that many have been in love with poverty, and have taken it upon themselves for his sake; leading a life of obscurity and abstie nence, while the world was not worthy of their virtues. And where is the mighty difference ? So short is the time of man, that the distinctions of this world are but shadows; his great object is to get safe to heaven; and he may make his way more safely in poverty than in riches. What is salvation but an escape from shipwreck ? and he who swims naked and unprovided, is more likely to reach the heavenly shore,
Poverty, in itself, is a low thing; but you see it is a great subject. However, it is time, now, to leave our contemplations, and proceed to the duty of relieving the poor.
The things necessary to man's natural life, are meat, drink, and cloathing; to his civil or social life, knowledge and learning; to his spiritual life, the faith, hope, and charity of a Christian. Therefore, the three great evils of poverty, are hunger, and nakedness, and ignorance; and consequently the three great
works of charity corresponding thereto, are the feeding, the cloathing, and the teaching of the
poor. That it is a good work to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked, is universally allowed; and the sight is pleasant, which we have now before us, of such decency and comfort in so many children of the poor. It is pleasing to us all: but it must be so in a more especial manner to their benefactors, who have a nearer interest in the case. Thus far, then, we are all agreed; that it is good to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked : but I have heard it questioned, whether it be expedient or charitable to teach the poor. You may be surprised at this ; but I can assure you it is very true; and the arguments by which the objection is supported, are these; viz. that learning tends to lift the poor out of their sphere, or tempts them to affect things above their station; and, which is worst of all, gives them ability to do that mischief in society, which they could not have done, if they had been left to their own ignorance. The objection against any thing good, which is drawn from the possibility of its being abused, is the weakest as well as the most common ; for all things in this life are abused; and if we were to drop them one after another on that account, we should have nothing left. In the present subject, all arguments against the teaching of the poor may be answered on this one consideration, that God hath given to man a revelation in writing ; it must therefore be good for man to read. But how shall the poor read, unless they are taught? and if they cannot pay for their own teaching, others must pay for it who can afford it better: and in so doing, they are undoubtedly fulfilling the will of God. If learning enables the poor to raise themselves above their station, in God's name, let them. do it, if they can: the pen of business is a more innocent and useful instrument than the sword of war, by which so many have raised themselves from a low station to wealth and honours. If learning disposes the poor to be discontented with their condition, it ought not to do so, because the remedy goes with the temptation. When they are taught to write and read, they receive religious instruction at the same time; they are taught, that their duty is to be done in that state of life to which God hath called them; and they may thence infer, that discontent is an act of re-, bellion against his Providence; and will forfeit.
his favour, the loss of which is worse than death. In an age, when vain and corrupting publications abound without any restraint, reading may be a dangerous employment; and many, who read only to amuse the imagination, have read themselves into idleness and beggary. I have heard of a mother, who hath gone into a workhouse with a novel in her hands, followed by a family of poor ragged children. But then, reading is not taught with this view: for there is the reading of wisdom, and the reading of folly; and they are at their liberty to take the one, or the other. Life and death are set before all, as the two trees were planted for the trial of our first parents in Paradise; and if some are so infatuated by passion as to make choice of death, many will prefer the worst sort of reading; 'such as will corrupt the mind, as surely as death corrupts the body. But this danger ought to be no discouragement: it proves nothing, but that good, by an abuse of it, may be turned into evil; and that the world abounds with temptations to sin.
But now, if some are disposed to plead against learning from the possible danger of it; it is but fair, that they should consider how the case stands with ignoránce. There
the danger is certain.
is certain. Leave nature to itself, say some, and it will go right; but, that I deny. Leave the land to itself, and see what will happen; you will soon find it covered with weeds; and the stronger the soil, the fouler it will grow, if it is neglected. It is thus with the heart of man; which must be cultivated, and sown with good seed, before any fruits can be gathered from it: and by neglect, the weeds of nature become so deeply rooted, that nothing but a miracle of grace can extract them. In the account which is given of felons and malefactors, or which they have given of themselves, I never heard of one that imputed his ruin to his learning; but of numbers who have laid it wholly to their ignorance; which ignorance proceeded either from the want of instruction, or their own indisposition to receive it. Some were neglected by bad parents; some had no teachers; others had them, and ran away from them, because they were idle and ill disposed; as if there were a mutual antipathy between vice and learning.
The profligacy of the lowest order of people, in this age and nation, hath of late become so alarming to the public, (who know not what cause to ascribe it to, but