- Sermon I. the Rising Generation Exhorted to Adopt the Religion of Their Christian Forefathers.
- Sermon II. Hope In God.
- Sermon III. On the Means and the Importance of Grace.
- Sermon IV. Corruption of Heart the Source of Irreligion and Immorality.
- Sermon V. Against Despair and Suicide.
- Sermon VI. On the Folly and Danger of Thoughtlessness.
- Sermon VII. Perseverance In the Religious Principles Taught In Youth, and Particularly In Faith and Hope, Recommended.
- Sermon VIII. Good Intentions the Least Fallible Security For Good Conduct.
- Sermon IX. Religion the Chief Concern of Life.
- Sermon X. On Conformity to Fashion and the Customs of the World
- Sermon XI. On Seeking a Remedy For Sorrow, In Vice and Dissipation.
- Sermon XII. Christian Politeness
- Sermon XIII. On the Duty of Preventing Evil, By Actual Coercion, As Well As By Advice and Remonstrance.
- Sermon XIV. On Pursuing Visionary Schemes of Happiness, Without Attending to Scripture, and Revealed Religion
- Sermon XV. the Pride of Human Learning and False Philosophy, a Great Obstacle to the Reception of Christianity.
- Sermon XVI. On the Duty of Servants.
- Sermon XVII. On the Wickedness and Misery of Envy and Contention.
- Sermon XVIII. the Cunning Oe the Wicked Inconsistent With Wisdom.
- Sermon XIX. On the Snares of the Devil, and Means of Escaping Them.
- Sermon XX. Moderation Necessary to All Solid and Durable Enjoyment.
- Sermon XXI. Happiness to Be Found Rather In the Enjoyment of Health and Innocence, Than In the Successful Pursuits of Avarice and Ambition.
- Sermon XXII. On the Duties of the Preacher and the Hearer.
- Sermon XXIII. * On the Benefits to Be Derived From the Sight of a Funeral.
- Sermon XXIV. a Preparatory Persuasive to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
- Sermon XXV. the Prospect of Perpetual and Universal Peace to Be Established On the Principles of Christian Philanthropy.
- Sermon XXVI. On the Necessity of Increasing the Places of Public Worship On the Establishment; and On the Duty of Supporting the Objects of the Philanthropic Society.
- Sermon XXVII. the Support of the Magdalen Hospital Recommended.
- Sermon XXVIII. the Education of the Poor Recommended.
on the necessity of increasing the places of public worship on the establishment; and on the duty of supporting the objects of the philanthropic society.
[Preached at the opening of the Chapel of the Philanthropic Society, on the 9th of November, 1806.]
Isaiah, xxviii. 16.—Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious comer stone, a sure foundation.
In uttering the first syllables ever solemnly pronounced from the hallowed place in which I stand; in opening, for the first time, the gates of this House of Prayer; I bow with reverential awe, and implore, on the very threshold, the blessing of the Almighty. May the light of God's countenance shine upon it, may his holy spirit sanctify it, may his influence cause it to become a fountain of light to them that sit in darkness, a sanctuary to the pious, a solace to the afflicted, a school of truth, a seminary of sound doctrine, the means of converting sinners, and of turning many to righteousness from generation to generation, till time shall be no more; and the glorious Majesty of the Lord our God be upon it; prosper thou the work of our hands upon us; O, prosper thou our handy work.
To this invocation, the effusion of a heart warmed and animated by the solemn scene around, may all, who hear me this day, unanimously subjoin, in the silent ejaculation of devotional fervour, a sincere Amen∗ nor will our prayer be poured in vain; for we cannot but believe, that, if any transactions of busy mortals ever attracted the gracious and approving eye of Heaven, (of which there is no doubt) it must be, when God looks down and beholds an assembly like this, convened for no other purpose, but to institute the perpetual worship of him, in a new temple; and, at the same time, to open or enlarge a source of comfort to suffering humanity: and I am confident, life can present but few situations in which the humble powers of man, are more holily, and, I may add, more divinely exerted, than that in which we are this moment engaged; when we are assembled, with zealous alacrity, to promote in humble co-operation with the divine grace, the united purposes of piety and philanthropy; to honour our Creator with our hearts and lips, and to open our hands, as stewards of his bounty, to the most destitute and forlorn among his creatures.
The words of my text, from which, under the impression of circumstances so new and awful, I have for a moment digressed, are highly figurative, and in the sublime style of oriental poetry; but, from their evident reference to a holy building, they may, I think, be applied to the present solemn occasion; on which a Christian sanctuary is first opened to the worshippers, not indeed a figurative sanctuary; but a solid, costly, and beautiful temple made with hands; in the construction of which, you, the honoured institutors and promoters of the whole establishment, may be said to have chosen for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone,
a sure foundation, evenJesus Christ. You have founded both your house of prayer, and your house of mercy, on a scriptural basis, on the love of God, and the love of your neighbour, on piety and philanthropy; that piety, and that philanthropy, which the principles of Christianity teach and enforce; with a permanancy of effect, beyond all systems, which the world has yet seen, either of moral philosophy, or of legislation. The precious corner stone of your building-is the rock of ages; and amidst the revolutions of empires, which, in our eventful times, abound, it stands unmoved and immovable; while the slight edifices built by folly on the sand, the temporary fabrics of a vain, a visionary, a godless philosophy, shall crumble to atoms, and be seen no more; or if any vestiges should remain, shall be either execrated by posterity, grown wise at last by experience, as monuments of a mischievous vanity; or despised, as the ice-built, puerile play-things of infants, dissolved as soon as raised, by the sunbeams of truth, streaming from the Gospel.
In an age of sophistical insanity, you have proved yourselves wise master-builders, skilful architects, workmen that need not be ashamed; for you have built on the tried stone, which, from age to age, has defied, and will defy, the waves of passion, and the winds of caprice. A fabric, founded on this precious corner stone, becomes more firmly fixed by the agitation around it, and derives new stability from the force exerted for its demolition. “Other foundation” men, wise in their own conceits, have attempted to lay for some fantastic structure of a new-fashioned virtue and a new-fangled religion; but the result has proved the Apostle's assertion, “that other foundation can no man lay, but that which is laid, which isJesus Christ: and experience will proceed to evince, That “except theLordbuild the house, their labour is but lost that build it.”
Such is the foundation of a temple truly Christian. Let us gratify the mental eye with a transient survey of the figurative superstructure. I look up with admiration at the broad expansive arch of charity, the massy columns of truth, the graceful capitals of mercy, gentleness, and compassion, the whole compactly cemented by piety and philanthropy; by a cement of godliness and love, intimately blended and tempered in a perfect, inseparable, amalgation. If it be asked, of what architectural order is the fabric? It is neither the Tuscan, the Doric, Ionic, nor the Corinthian, hut it is the Composite Christian order; more beautiful in its form, more durable in its materials, than the most celebrated productions of classic antiquity, modelled in the polite schools of Athens or of Rome. And it is finished with a grace which they could only, at a distant interval, faintly and imperfectly conceive.
This allegorical exemplar has been your model, in raising the material structure which we now behold; and your hands have emulated the archetype; for you have given us beauty, deriving its chief charm from simplicity; you have exhibited the tasteful ornaments of art, chastised by the gravity and solemnity of religion. The venerable vesture which you have here assigned to her is that of the dignified matron; who, while she charms by her graceful air and the symmetry of her features, strikes an awe into the beholders by the reverend decorum of her august presence: We love her aspect, for it is lovely; but our love is controlled by veneration. So decent is the building, so appropriate all its appendages, and so benevolent its purposes, that we humbly hope and confide that the divine Architect, on beholding the work of our hands this day completed, will vouchsafe to pronounce that it is good, and to give it his benediction.
But however good, and however beautiful; yet, perhaps, some cold-hearted objector may inquire of us, Are not the places of worship, already scattered over the land in profusion, sufficiently numerous for every rational purpose? I answer, plainly, No. And to prove the expediency of an addition to the number all over this kingdom, I allege the present unequal allotment of territory which forms the parochial districts, to which one church only is, for the most part, assigned; an inequality and disproportioned magnitude, which leaves many parts of populous parishes, and large well-inhabited hamlets, without an established place to meet in, on the Sabbath-day, for the social and united worship of their common parent and protector.
I shall not be able, from want of time, to trace, on the present occasion, the origin and progress of religious fabrics, from the tabernacle of Moses to the temple of Solomon, from the altar of green turf, or the cylindrical stone, to the gorgeous abbey and august cathedral of our own metropolis. Such an investigation might not only afford an appropriate, a rational, and instructive entertainment, but lead us to consider and admire, that HE, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, condescends, for our sake, to require particular places to be dedicated to his honour; declared his delight in them, and promised his propitious presence in them, more eminently than in any other department, throughout his own proper and boundless temple, universal space; and, I might ask, can the most bigoted idolaters of human reason (by which they usually mean their own reason), object to the rendering of commodious buildings, erected for public worship and religious instruction, so far sacred and inviolate, as that it shall be deemed impious and sacrilegious to unhallow, or desecrate, their walls by irreverent behaviour; to pollute their shrines by words or actions, tending, in the remotest degree, to immorality; to sully their very vestibules, or even to disturb the solemn stillness of their cemeteries, by any secular and profane, though, in any other place, innocent occupation.
I might proceed to urge, if I entered at present into the full discussion of the subject, that reason gives her sanction to the consecration of place as well as of time. As one day is confessedly holier than another, so is one place; if not by nature, yet by human wisdom, as well as by divine institution. The convenience, the advantage, the decorum of society (and without decorum virtue is always exposed to danger), render the consecration of both time and place reasonable; yes, philosophically and politically reasonable, and not, in the smallest degree, under the restrictions now admitted, vain or superstitious. What, indeed, mean the words “to sanctify or consecrate,” but to separate or set apart, from vulgar contamination, certain places, as well as certain times, for honourable, venerable, or religious use. But we have higher authority than human reason for both; not only for the sabbath, but for the sanctuary; and the great Lord of the Universe, for our benefit, for the salutary effects on our minds, for the sake of exciting a beneficial awe, and of keeping at a distance profane familiarity; has deigned to show a predilection for religious edifices, and for modes of worship, adorned and recommended with all that the art of man can contrive, or his dexterity execute, the finest productions of mechanical ingenuity, the melody of music, the pathos of poetry, the sublimity of architecture, the pencil's blazonry, and the high-wrought decorations of the chisel. The fine arts, under the direction of a liberal piety (and narrow-minded piety is but Pharisaical hypocrisy), and by the appointment of Heaven, in the case of Solomon's temple, have become the diligent and useful handmaids of religion; and, indeed, whatever elevates, like the fine arts, and ennobles the mind of man, is congenial with the very nature and essence of religion, and has a direct tendency to excite, and to preserve, the glowing, aspiring, heaven-directed sentiments of a warm, rapturous, and acceptable adoration.
I might enlarge, with delight, on a subject calculated to charm every polished and elegant mind with visions of beauty and sublimity. 1 might conduct your imaginations through the aisles of the abbey, and point to the concave dome of the cathedral,-I might bring before you the vivid images of sculptured marble on the wall, the painted canvass at the altar-piece, the storied illuminations of the window, the rich embellishments of the shrine, and all the graces of Gothic and Grecian architecture, combining, in humble, ministerial, instrumentality, to promote the sublime purposes of religion; but I return from the seductive digression, and proceed to the point I am tending to evince—the expediency, not to say the necessity, of laying more foundations like this; and of adding to the number of churches or chapels on the establishment. Whatever the indifferent or the disaffected to the church may allege in opposition, I venture to affirm that the unequal size of parishes, and the change of local population, render the erection of new places of worship, on the establishment, in various parts of this kingdom, a grand desideratum in the present state of our ecclesiastical polity.
It is natural to inquire in this place, from what cause originated the inequality of parochial districts. Let us look back then to the age of Augustine, when he landed on the shores of Kent, and imported, not indeed the rich cargoes of East or Vest Indian produce, the only riches, which, in the opinion of narrow worldlings are devoutly to be wished for; but the unperishing treasures of the gospel. He came and fixed his chair in the centre of his province, the kingdom of Ethelbert, where it still stands, in all the dignity and beauty of holiness, a magnificent cathedral. From this seat of ecclesiastical authority he sent forth itinerant preachers to all the towns and villages of his province. But the great proprietors of land soon found the inconvenience of a ministry so precarious and distant, intolerable; and therefore erected churches on their own estates, and obtained for each a resident pastor, either rectorial or vicarial, either an incumbent or a substitute. Thus all the churches in the land were originally hut chapels, auxiliary to their several mother churches, the cathedrals of each diocese. But the piety of those times was great; religion, the chief purpose and business of life, and the lords of the manors soon vied with each other, in endowing the churches, from their own possessions, with glebes; and rendered the parishes, however they differed in population, commensurate with their own manorial demesnes. And as their manors, of course, varied in extent, so also varied the parishes, in their boundaries; and so to this hour, they continue to vary; and for this reason, it is most desirable that there should be an addition to the auxiliary chapels, all over the kingdom. If the spirit of piety can be kept up by zeal in ministers, it admits of no doubt, but that places of worship should be multiplied, and accommodated, in every district, to the local convenience of a faithful and devout people. What avails it that they have a parish church, if the time and labour requisite to resort to it, and return from it, are more than, in the nature of things, they can possibly spare? Tens of thousands are in this situation; condemned, amidst all the lights of Christianity, to live and die in the darkness of heathenism.
The consequence of possessing only a single church, and often a very small church, at the extremity of a very large parish, can easily be conceived: and where this is the case, many pious persons, from the cradle to the grave, have never entered their own lawful place of worship, except at their baptism and their burial: and even at these times, not without expense, labour, and difficulty. It is truly a pilgrimage, in such situations, to resort to the parish church, often situated, to add to the hardship, on a lofty eminence. The aged and the infirm, who stand most in need of religious consolation, are thus prevented for many years of declining life, from entering the sanctuary, and partaking of the holy sacrament, though they thirst after it, like as the hart panteth for the waterbrook.
How far the rapid increase of places of worship, unfriendly to the established church, is occasioned by a paucity of national churches, disproportioned to an augmented population; and how far it operates to the injury of the established church, and whether it does not render expedient an addition to the number of churches and chapels on the establishment, I leave to the official guardians of our ecclesiastical state. Many remarks on this subject, which I might make, which I have made, and which 1 shall ever make, in the congregations committed entirely to my charge, I here purposely omit, in tenderness to some of my auditors, whose charity I revere and love, (even if they are mistaken) and with a respectful deference to the wisdom of those, whose immediate duty it is, to take care that the church shall not be in danger.
Upon the whole it appears, at least to me, that from the apathy of worldly men to all but pleasure, pomp, or riches; from the infidelity of conceited sciolists who wish to appear wiser than their neighbours; and from the enthusiasm of the more serious part of the lower orders; there is danger, lest the church, which flatters neither worldly propensities, intellectual vanity, nor fanatical extravagance, should be partially deserted. Is not the service of the church actually deserted in the afternoon, at least by the higher orders, in almost every part of the metropolis and kingdom?
It is particularly desirable, in my opinion, to multiply churches and chapels on the establishment, if it were only for the sake of counteracting the mischiefs of popular error; and of reviving, throughout all orders, a spirit of sober, yet fervent; of rational, yet scriptural, religion; and it is a subject of congratulation that we are now assembled to open a new house of prayer, not erected for the private lucre of individuals, not to make a gain of godliness, not to engage religion in the sordid service of commercial speculation, not to abuse the finest feelings of humanity, the devotional and charitable sensibilities, to the purpose of gratifying the narrow views of adventuring laymen; who, for usurious advantages, might perhaps as readily erect a crescent as a cross, a mosque as a minster, a pagoda as a St. Paul's; but founded solely for the purpose of making piety subservient to charity, devotion instrumental to beneficence, religious instruction conducive to the relief of the wretched, and to the safety, as well as comfort, of civil society; and all this, from the most, disinterested motives; the builders constituting the poor the receivers of the profits, and expending even profusely, from their own private possessions, to accomplish the benevolent design.
And with respect to the peculiar propriety of adding a chapel to this Institution, I must entreat you to attend to one circumstance, which proves, that, without a chapel, the plan of reform would have been incomplete. The children were accustomed, as you well know, to walk in procession to the parish church, situated in the great frequented street of Southwark, and at a considerable distance. There was danger in the walk, not ideal, but experienced, and real, and imminent danger, lest these thoughtless infants meeting their old companions in the way, might be seduced by them to return to the paths of wickedness and misery, which they had happily abandoned. Unfortunate indeed it was, that the laudable habit of going to church; and the very attendance at a place, where every thing-good is taught; was likely, from the circumstances of public exposure in the streets, and even in the church itself, to frustrate all the purposes of this Institution, and to spread, both within doors and without, the contagion of iniquity. It was an evil which imperiously demanded a remedy. It is now supplied; and here you see the children (and a goodly sight it is) sitting in the house of prayer, as it were at home; far removed from all danger of contamination. You have brought the stray sheep, like the good shepherd, into your fold. You have gathered these little ones, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, and guards them from the vulture, which hovers over, and watches every opportunity to devour them.
After this cursory survey of your temple, and on making various reflections as I conclude my perambulation, I think, I might term the building, if it wanted a name, and if the name which I would give it, had not been prostituted, the temple of theophilanthropism; for I find, according to the wise ordinances that are to regulate its use, that never will there be a religious assembly on the Lord's day, within its walls, but, at the same time that piety is offering up her sacrifices of prayer and praise, to the great Benefactor of us all; Charity will be dealing out her constant, voluntary dole, to the most hopeless and abject of all the sons and daughters of affliction, whom in the several apartments contiguous, she cherishes on her lap, and feeds from her bosom. Under this roof we shall ever pray acceptably, if charity adds efficacy to supplication, because, while we hold in one hand our book of prayer, we shall constantly offer from the other, a gift to our poor disconsolate brother and sister, and, through them, to Christ, our Intercessor. We shall not say to the destitute, be ye clothed, be ye warmed, be ye fed; but we shall actually clothe, we shall comfortably warm, we shall plentifully feed, and we shall moreover effectually heal the bruised, and bind up the broken hearted: and we know who it was that said, verily as ye did it to one of these little ones ye did it unto me.
Alms, on proper occasions, are certainly the least fallible criterion of the sincerity of prayer; and a good deed clone in season, the most certain testimony of true devotion. In the age, in which we live, there is indeed a general pretension to humanity and benevolence, but it is often a humanity without religion; a benevolence without beneficence. There is, in the circles of frivolity, a certain cant language of sympathetic tenderness, which seems satisfied with talking, or writing, or reading about it; with seeking and finding, in each little group of self-admirers, mutual applause for it; with sighing and weeping, in the sentimental luxury of fancied woe, in the delicious distresses of elegiac poetry and pathetic romance; without attempting to do any thing attended with the least trouble, or with much expense, or even a momentary interruption of amusement, for the actual and substantial alleviation of real unequivocal misery: more especially, if the objects are low, mean, and obscure, or in the smallest degree offensive, to the fastidious delicacy of affected fashion. Is this the charity of a Christian? one mite bestowed on the least of these little ones is more estimable than the whole of this sickly sensibility, on which many plume themselves, as on a symptom of fine feelings; and here the Christian law of love, as might justly be expected, displays its superiority over the wild romances, the tender tales, the philosophical reveries of this sentimental, novel-reading age; inasmuch as it does not acquiesce in certain physical feelings, in mere palpitations of the pulse, in animal emotions, in nervous vibrations, in fanciful refinements, in fashionable affectations, in ostentatious theories of romantic philosophy; but requires, that our acts of kindness should proceed from solid principle, as well as tender sensation; that every tree should be estimated by its fruits, not its blossoms; by its solid produce, not its foliage. The warmth of Christian benevolence is not a hectic; but the result of sound health in the heart and mind; a source, dispensing perennial streams of bounty, like the pure salubrious spring in the valley, whose waters never fail to relieve the languid, and refresh the thirsty traveller; which enlivens its green margin with a gentle, yet never-ceasing current, neither exhausted in the heats of summer, nor frozen in winter, nor subjected to any change with the changing seasons.
Thus constant, thus uniform, is that benevolence which flows from principle as well as feeling; or in other words, Christian Charity. Ye visionaries, from the mountains of Switzerland, monopolizers, as ye pretend to be, of the milk of human kindness, for ever talking and writing of humanity and philanthropy, would ye, all gentle, and bland, and soothing as is the language of your systems and romances; would you deprive us of that religion which teaches not to raise airy fabrics to fancied deities, but to build, as you may here behold, these firmly founded temples of the only true God, these houses of never-failing mercy; these places of certain solace to sickly mortality, these hospitable inns for the traveller, fainting on the wearisome road of life; would ye, I say, rob us of these balsams and these anodynes, and these cordials, which Christian charity dispenses; wounded, bruised, and sore, as are the sons of men, in their conflicts with unavoidable calamity? To preserve a plausible consistency, you answer, no; you would build, but you would build on another foundation, not on our “tried stone,” not on our “precious corner stone,Jesus Christ;” but on the basis of your own newly invented philosophy; you would build temples to the goddess of reason, you would build hospitals on the system of worldly policy, on political calculation, on what you term statistical economy; that is, you would raise temples to vanity, temples tp mammon, temples, I had almost said, even to atheism; but, where would be found a temple, like this we stand in, of piety and of mercy, with houses appendant to it for the poor out-cast, admitted solely, on the plea of misery, for the love of Christ, and on the permanent and consistent principles of Christian philanthropy? All your fabrics, founded on the caprice of the moment, on mutable human passion, on secular interests, on party prejudice, on factious turbulence, would moulder away with the next revolution in politics, or at the next vicissitude of fashion, or at the will of some untried government, ever varying with the fickle humour of popular favour, the wantonness of aristocratical pride, or the sudden, and violent fluctuations of a despot's rage. The experience of a few years elapsed, and in the memory of all here present, fully confirms the Apostle's declaration, that other foundation can no man lay of a durable structure, either for the glory of God, or the benefit of man, than that which is laid, in the building where we are now assembled, even Jesus Christ.
From the house of God, let us now descend to view the house of the poor, contiguous to it; the commodious receptacles of those, who, plucked as firebrands from the fire, rescued from imminent destruction, find here all that can restore them to lost virtue, and to that, which, with the loss of virtue, is sure to depart, the peace of innocence and the sweet satisfaction of conscious integrity. I pause a moment, as I enter the doors of the house of mercy, to read the title and superscription. This friendly brotherhood I read, is a “society for the prevention of crimes, by the admission of the offspring op convicts, and for the reform op criminal poor children.”
prevention and reform∗ It is enough; these two words are, in their import voluminous. Surely nothing more needs be said in its praise. God and man immediately set their seal of approbation. God will indubitably give his blessing, and man cannot withhold his contribution to it. Prevention and reform∗ Your Institution then is a moral infirmary, administering medicines to the mind, both with anticipating and retro-active efficacy. Can man do more? In thus imitating the divine beneficence, does not man become as it were, (with all humility be it uttered,) a god to his fellow mortal?
There are indeed some things so evidently good, that to point out their excellence, in the language of studied eulogium, is not only superfluous; but, in some measure, derogatory from their acknowledged glory. It, would seem as if they wanted the colours of rhetoric; as if their excellence were not visible, till magnified by a glass; as if their beauty required the extrinsic embellishments of a meretricious attire. To name this establishment, as we have seen, is to pronounce its panegyric. Sufficient would it be for all purposes of recommendation to the notice and the patronage of Christians, throughout Christendom, to wave our white banner over the portal of the edifice, with an inscription, as it claims, in letters of gold. “To our father in Heaven Sacred;to our brother on earth (both the unfortunate and the guilty) a refuge and reform.” Not a syllable more is necessary, to induce every sincere lover of Jesus, and of his brother, who goes by the way side, and has the power of communicating a share of the good he enjoys, to drop his mite into your treasury. He must be anxious, even for his own sake, to partake in the blessedness of being instrumental to a work, which the benignant Deity, we presume, beholds with complacency. If all men were sincere in their professions of Christianity, the work would be instantly and completely finished, as soon as noticed, (as far as pecuniary contribution is required) and the necessity of addressing you from this place, on this occasion, for eleemosynary gifts, entirely superseded.
But I am aware, the solemnity of such occasions as these, requires an address from the pulpit; and I therefore have advanced thus far, and shall proceed with due diffidence; though, as the nature and beneficial effects of the Institution are no less clear than the great luminary above us, I own, I am not convinced, especially in such an audience, that it can be necessary. A laudable custom has, however, rendered addresses to willing benefactors expected; and though they afford not much information, and may as exhortations, be superfluous; yet they may be useful in calling vague attention to subjects, which, wanting the grace of novelty, are sometimes disregarded.
I shall, therefore, in respectful attention to the appointed solemnity, proceed in my labour of love; and follow, in imagination, the steps of the projectors and founders of this Charity, when they first set out on their blessed progress of benevolence. I see them stooping down to enter the abode of disease, and famine, and guilt, and despair. They descend into the dreary, loathsome cell, messengers of Heaven, furnished with ample stores of food and medicine, and with soothing words of consolation. They went forth like him who brought healing in his wings. They traced, with the keen sagacity of affectionate, philanthropic ardour, the footsteps of affliction, marked as it was by tears, to her hiding place, in the obscurest outskirts of the great city. They caught a view of the pale, emaciated, squalid infant; pining with pestilence, inhaling putridity, clothed in rags, ghastly, sickly, full of sores j not only unknowing where to find a medicine for his sickness, and a salve for his sores, but even sustenance, the little pittance nature wants for the passing day—therefore tempted (but it was through hunger) to pilfer a morsel of bread,—but it was only a morsel; or, through cold (and bitter blew the blast,)—a covering; (but it was a tattered covering) or some vile, neglected article, (dreadful expedient∗) to barter for either; and instantly seized for the theft, and held fast by the iron grasp of justice. They look through the massy bars, they see a guilty infant prostrate on the earth; they listen—they hear him clank his chains, they listen again, for hark∗ he groans, and the iron enters into his soul, and at the same time, pierces their own. Venerable are our laws. May Heaven guard them∗ The legislature must be uniform and impartial in its penal inflictions. The magistrate must be just: he beareth not the sword in vain. The law must take its course. Society demands a sacrifice; but the gospel and royal clemency ever delighting in the prerogative of forgiveness, rescue the forlorn infant; and allow him time for repentance and reformation. Your gates instantly fly open. A soul is saved. Heaven gives its plaudit to the pardon, and angels and spirits made perfect, chant hymns of joy around the throne of mercy.
Behold another—a helpless, houseless, friendless, fatherless, child of affliction:—fatherless—for the law has justly claimed the father as its victim. The father is gone for ever. The melancholy spectacle is just over. The gaping crowd are returned from the dismal scene. Whither shall the innocent offspring fly for refuge? The finger of scorn points at him, and upbraids him with ignominy, not his own, but the ignominy of his father∗ He flies, like the poor haunted animal in the forest, to the deepest obscurity, covered with shame, there to pine or starve in hopeless solitude, or come forth boldly, and commit a crime. The world knows him not, pities him not, owns him not; but ye know him, ye pity him, ye own him. Poor child of sorrow, baptized, if baptized at all—with the tears of a widowed mother; naked, literally naked, in a bleak exposure to all the inclement winds that blow; “Come hither, poor hapless boy,” exclaims in blandest accents, the voice of Charity. Come hither, child; for here Philanthropy hath built thee an house, and opens her doors, and her arms to receive thee, when every other door, and every other hand, and every other heart, is shut against thee. She soothes and fosters thee, on thy first arrival, even as thine own mother pitied her innocent babe when he hung at her breast. Then she gradually teaches thee to know right from wrong—to fear God—and to respect the rights, and claims, and comforts of thy fellow-creature. She bids thee be industrious; and, to enable thee to be so, she gives thee a skill in arts, that thou mayest be usefully and successfully industrious; gives thee that fine preservative of us all from flagitious degeneracy, a due degree of self-esteem, which arises from the consciousness of being useful, of possessing some place and estimation in the society of mortals around thee; some reputable station in the grand system of human affairs; teaches thee to feel the pleasure of honesty, the sweet satisfaction of self-dependence, under divine Providence; teaches thee to live with comfort, nay with credit, in thy humble sphere, and to die, in the course of nature, with the hope of heaven.
The latter of these two descriptions, came hither, it is true, comparatively innocent; but, consider how likely he was to be corrupted by the influence of the unfortunate parent's connections, to be rendered desperate by contempt, disgrace, and insult, having little or no hope of an honest maintenance, even of a morsel of bread or a tattered garment (under these circumstances), but by depredation, by secret fraud, or by open violence.
But let us proceed in our progress to the house of reform. Reform∗ What is it but religion, combining with legislation, not only to promote its best purposes, but to supply those defects of human laws, which, in every thing human and sublunary, are inevitable? Who but a Draco or a cannibal, would wish to punish (and to punish with exile or death) when he has it in his power, by the exercise of wisdom and charity, to prevent both the evil of punishment and the evil of crime; both of them, in the eyes of philanthropy and philosophy, evils of great magnitude. Policy, is no less concerned than charity in the reform. An useful subject saved to the state, is an acquisition truly valuable, when all are wanted, both for the purpose of contributing to national wealth and to national defence. The reform is, indeed, the grand prominent purpose and benefit of this wise as well as charitable Institution. The reform reaches even the soul. View it in that awful light, in order duly to appreciate its value. Souls are saved from perdition by the same friendly deliverers who snatch the body from a gibbet; and it is impossible for an observing eye not to advert to the wisdom with which the whole plan of reform is conducted, by men, not recluses and dreamers, such as founded monasteries; but, men experienced in life and manners, men versed in affairs, men who have perhaps felt, as well as remarked, the vicissitudes of many-coloured life, men acquainted practically, not merely by theory, with the world and human nature, at the same time that they are enlightened and animated by the truths of the gospel. Mark the superior wisdom of the disciples of experience, over the speculatists of the closet or the monastic cloister. The men of experience, it is true, give to the pauper education. Yes: but not education of the mind with bodily inactivity. Education in the way of industry, said the great judge Hale, is the way to empty our gaols of malefactors, and our streets of vagrants. Education of the poor outcast in idleness, that is, the education of coarse, vulgar minds, of minds accustomed by necessity and by example to coarse, vulgar habits, without manual employment, such employment as occupies attention, withdraws from evil company, and gives ability to procure an honest livelihood, may, and has often, effected the reverse. It may add craft to the knave, give the plausibilities of address to the swindler, increase the spirit of enterprise in the robber, and facilitate to each the means of evading detection. Here then, in this house of piety, charity, and wisdom, are made the best provision possible for the peace, good order, and security of society and for the welfare of the immediate objects of its care, both in the present life and the future: employment, honest, creditable, useful, profitable; instruction, plain, pious, necessary, and no more. What was a Solon or a Lycurgus to the scholars of the school of Christ, the philanthropists of our own age and nation, illuminated by grace? What is a taper to the sun?
The whole system before us tends to the recovery of lost virtue, and the prevention of future vice; to teach the fear of God, and a religious regard to the safety and advantage of society. You will, indeed, find a very intimate connection in the work of reform, between the chapel and the manufactory, the bending of the knees and the labour of the hands, the solemn hymns of devotion and the cheerful carols of industry. Believe me, the voice of joy and gladness is to be found in the manufactory, as well as in the chapel. Industry, innocence, and cheerfulness are nearly allied; and piety, at stated returns, within these walls, confirms and harmonizes the happy union. And, with respect to the efficiency of the labour here exercised, you will judge of the skill and exertion displayed in the manufactory, by the pecuniary profits (and it is a result most honourable to the conductors) which already contribute no inconsiderable sum towards the great and unavoidable expenses of this well-concerted Institution.
I have yet said nothing of the female objects of the charity. Neither is there any occasion to enlarge on the topic. They certainly want no advocates with the men. I should blush to be under the necessity of recommending, by argument or persuasion, any unfortunate female, especially in the tender age of infancy, deserted infancy, orphan infancy, to any one who calls himself a man; and their own sex, as appears by the roll of subscribers, has shown, most effectually its amiable dispositions, by substantial tokens of peculiar favour, and most bountiful patronage. Charity is, indeed, among the lovely graces and virtues which render the women of Britain exemplary in every quarter of the globe; where it is at present deplorable to behold, in proportion as religion has declined and lost its influence on manners, enormous and unprecedented examples of female depravity. The corruption of the best things, says a maxim of scholastic wisdom, is the worst corruption; and may that sanctity of manners which results from religious faith and awe, ever keep from our island, what some have attempted to introduce into it, the libertine character of a female free thinker.
Upon a review of the whole subject, and a consideration of the benefits arising to the individual and to the community from this Institution, what shall we say in honour of the institutors? How shall we adequately commend this society of merciful men, ingenious, as they are, in devising new modes of doing good, studying, as the business of their lives; labouring, as in their professions and daily occupations, to find the means of alleviating the woes of their fellow-man, “a mourner in his best estate.”For my own part, I shrink from the task, and avow myself, as I feel, incompetent to do it justice. All language, but the language of the heart, must fail in its efforts fully to describe, and adequately to praise, virtue so pure, benevolence so godlike, bounty so large. Under this inability, it is a consolation to me to reflect, that the praise of man is comparatively of little value. Yet I will say, that every honoured name, (and, in my estimation, they are all honoured,) which I see in the subscription roll, I consider as both a seal and signature, an attestation and certificate of the tried and proved utility of this establishment; and at the same time, as an example to mankind illustriously honourable to human nature. Verily they are not without their reward. Sweet is the recollection at the close of day, sweet too at the close of life, of good deeds done in the spirit of Christian philanthropy—and there is an hour coming to us all, when the very best of vis will be glad to look back to any good, however little, we may have done in this short life, hoping to propitiate the great Judge at the awful tribunal. You, I trust, ye merciful men, will find much on a retrospect, to afford you consolation I
Well done, ye good and faithful servants, shall be your salutation. What is human praise in comparison with this celestial plaudit? I will not then attempt your praise. I will not give you pain by dwelling, in your presence, on a topic, the only one which intimately concerns your favourite Institution, on which its feeble advocate would be heard by you, with impatience.
Happily this day and this occasion afford others also, an excellent opportunity of sharing, in the good work, and the rewards of it; the approbation of God, and the applause of conscience. To these, I might say, give us some token of your good will, some proof, that accident only, or inadvertency, has hitherto prevented you from adding your contribution. But no; think not I will so far insult any individual in this crowded assembly, as to supplicate his bounty. You require, I am convinced, while you look around you, and reflect on what you see, neither petition nor exhortation. None will I offer; because lam unwilling to offend you by an importunity which might imply a suspicion that you are deficient in that, with which I presume you abound; (at least when you enter these walls) the. spirit of Christian or universal love. But yet I will take the liberty to suggest, that the occasion is extraordinary; that, in all its circumstances, it never can recur in this place: that the eyes of men, of neighbours, of sectaries, perhaps of rivals, (a small consideration comparatively, but yet a consideration) as well as the eyes of the all-seeing God, are now upon us: that a good commencement has ever been found by experience, auspicious to a good progress and a happy termination; that to begin well is to set out with an impetus, which cannot fail to carry us forward rapidly and successfully to the completion of our course. Extraordinary occasions, you will allow, call for extraordinary exertions; and, when charity is concerned, for exemplary acts of munificence.
But I pause. I pause from a conviction that the whole of this topic is superfluous. For to whom am I speaking? To men who constitute a part of a nation which may be called a nation of philanthropists. Charity, humanity, generosity, and all the nobler virtues of the heart are, at this hour, the acknowledged characteristics of our country, in the eyes of all Europe; and they are the genuine result of its religion, still preserved with exemplary faith and purity, and let me add without an apology, of its civil constitutional liberty. These, (inestimable jewels as they are) it has still retained, amid the conflicts and confusion of the world around; and these, more than any thing else, are perfective of human nature. These are yours; at once your happiness and your glory. It is enough that you are Britons. I leave the cause of which I am the advocate, entirely to your hearts, without solicitude for the issue. I anticipate the result. Distress never yet sued to you in vain. In times most unfavourable to liberality, you received your enemies into your bosoms; and when they were exiles and vagabonds, they found all the security and comfort of a home, in your comprehensive philanthropy. Yes; when I name the name of Englishmen, and remark the degenerate state of morals and religion, at this portentous period, over the whole terraqueous globe, more particularly in Europe and in Africa, I say—be proud of your country and your appellation; for in them is involved the character of men, who, amidst the unspeakable corruptions of surrounding nations, pre-serve, more than all others that it has been my lot to hear or read of, the divine image undefaced.
Certainly, in no country under heaven is the life of man, the property of man, the liberty of man, the individual man, and all that concerns the comfort, the accommodation, and the safety of man, in private life, so valued, so respected, so protected, and so religiously preserved inviolate, as in this favoured island, this happy country, where religion and liberty, harassed as they are over the wide world, have found their last asylum; aud I do firmly believe, that the virtue of this nation, religious and moral, like the salt of the earth, spoken of in Scripture, preserves the rest from utter corruption, and averts the thunderbolt of the Almighty.
What, though there occasionally arise among us some instances of singular degeneracy? An exception which, from its rarity, strikes the attention, confirms the rule. Not even the influx of riches from all regions of the earth, not even our consequent political corruptions, have yet been able to efface the deeply engraven marks of the national character, the manly features of our forefathers. The Christian religion, in all its purity, is still believed, revered, and (human infirmity excepted) still practised too, among the people at large. Freedom still flourishes; and, like the palm tree, preserves, under every weight suspended on its branches, its own native elasticity. All therefore, I trust, is safe, amid surrounding danger; and, so long as we preserve our religion and our laws, we may still confidently, yet humbly, rely on that favour of Heaven, which has to this hour, while all Europe is in a state of conflagration, preserved this island from becoming the seat of war; a mercy, for which we ought to pour daily hymns of gratitude to the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the only Ruler of Princes. Let us persevere in holding fast that religion, and that happy constitutional freedom, from which our national virtues have originated; and we shall still conciliate the favour of Heaven, and preserve, among the nations, our glorious preeminence—the preeminence of virtue—the distinction of faith, hope, and charity. Gracious God∗ may we never relinquish our religion, that sure anchor in the storms and tempests of a turbulent world. For ever may the British nation continue, as it is at present, one grand Philanthropic Society; of which I consider you as the delegated, or rather voluntary representatives. Go on and prosper; and be assured that the palaces of the poor, which stand so thick, like ramparts round our great city, will be stronger castles and fortresses, if they draw down the favour and tutelary protection of the God of Hosts, than the tower of the capital, with all its embattlements clothed with artificial thunder.
Proceed, therefore, in your work of benevolence, and be not weary of well-doing. But, why exhort you? Your activity and your bounty have anticipated exhortation from the pulpit (for till this day ye had not a pulpit), and your perseverance supersedes, at least on this occasion, its necessity. We trust the completion and the extension of the good work to the same virtuous and liberal dispositions, to which it owes its origin, its progressive advancement, and its present flourishing condition. Thanks be to God, it does flourish; and I venture to predict, it shall flourish more and more, like the cedars of Lebanus, and as the cypress trees upon the mountains of Hermon.
I will, therefore, add no more, but conclude, as I began, with a supplication to the Most High, who delights in mercy and in merciful men, that he would look down with peculiar favour on this house, and grant that it may be perpetual; dedicated for ever, as it is opened, for the first time, this day, to Charity and to Prayer. May he pour down the sweet influence of his loving spirit on the appointed teachers, causing the instructions to be afforded from this place, to diffuse universal philanthropy among the sons of men, in every clime and of every colour; persuading them to love one another, as Christ has loved us, to conciliate, to pacify, to relent, to forgive; and to say to the sword, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, O thou sword, how long will it be ere thou art quiet; put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest and be still. May the example of this Institution, and the doctrines taught from this pulpit, proceed auspiciously from age to age, to convince the world that all men, however divided by oceans, ought to be philanthropists; that man, born of woman, who hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery, was not formed to be the enemy of man; but the brother, the friend, the protector, the guardian, and the guide. May the prayers, together with the alms now offered, and to be for ever offered, from this sanctuary, ascend to heaven, as incense; and, while they bring down blessings on the institutors, blessings on the worshippers, and blessings on the poor objects of their charity, open the gates of that celestial mansion, where shall be no more misery to relieve, and where philanthropy shall be completely gratified, in finding all moral and all natural evil cease, under the eternal reign of the supreme lover of men, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer.