- 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.
the education of the poor recommended.
[Preached at Bedford Chapel, Bloomsbury, 1814, for the benefit of the National Schools.]
John, viii. 12.—I am the Light of the World.
Letthere be light, was the first command of the Lord God Almighty, in the noblest exertion of his omnipotence. The glorious emanation, bursting from its orient fountains, instantly obeyed; and all nature, fresh from the hand of her Author, glowed with the beauty of variegated colour. But this primordial light, lovely though its appearance, and stupendous its essence, is still, we know, but a body created, physical and material. Another light there is, and a greater and a holier, of which the solar beam, all pure and radient as it streams from the day-star, is but the emblem and the harbinger.
For hear the voice of our Saviour. I am the light of the world. In the vivid language of eastern metaphor, he styles himself the sun of the intellectual system, the luminary of the soul.
Light indeed is synonimous in Scripture with wisdom, knowledge, happiness, life; life spiritual, and life immortal: and darkness, in the same figurative language, implies ignorance, misery, and death; spiritual death, in the midst of animal life, and eternal death, when animal life is no more.
He indeed who made the sun, and commanded it thus to revolve for ever in its orbit, Godhimself, says the Apostle, is light; and we are well assured, that the first adoration ever offered by man was to the sun; of all visible objects, the most strikingly illustrious, and most obviously beneficial. But as the sun is to the earth, to the visual faculties of animals, and to all things susceptible of its influence, such is Christ, such the spirit of the Holy One that inhabits eternity, to the soul of man; dispensing to it analogous benefits, producing on it analogous effects, dispelling its darkness, and vivifying, with genial warmth, all its latent energy.
On the day of redemption, indeed, the fiat of God operated no less graciously and powerfully than when, in the morning of the creation, the sun, for the first time, went forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiced, as a giant, to run his course.
For when the sun of righteousness arose, with healing in his wings, and the feet of him that brought glad tidings, appeared so beautiful on the mountains, how did he announce his dignity? I am the light of the world. It is a description truly sublime; beautiful in its imagery, and no less just than beautiful. Few are the words; but magnificent the style, and momentous the purport; such indeed as could proceed from the lips of him alone, the loftiness of whose nature enabled him to utter them with appropriate grace, and without the slightest semblance of vain glory.
That Christ is the sacred source of all spiritual illumination is thus plainly declared, and must be confessed by all his followers, with sentiments of wonder and gratitude. But the occasion, on which we are now assembled, requires that we view him as the world's great luminary in another sense; a sense most highly interesting to man, though in comparison, but secondary and subordinate. I mean that he is collaterally the copious source of the less perfect radiance, still, in a high degree luminous, which has flowed upon the world from the preservation of learning in the dark ages; from the cultivation of science in times of barbarism; and from a partial attention to education, in some mode and measure, however confined and inadequate, amidst the shades of ignorance gross as universal.
For it is true (and the page of history will justify the assertion), that the learning, or the means of learning, which we now so amply possess, were preserved from total destruction, by circumstances peculiar to Christianity.
It is a curious but incontestable fact, that for ages after the sixth century, when all learning in Europe was enveloped in clouds, the Egyptian darkness was in some degree dispelled from the church, and a dim religious light constantly preserved in the cloister. A pale tremulous flame, every where else extinguished, still glimmered through the aisles, and faintly illumined the arches of the abbey. Feeble indeed were its rays, like those of a sepulchral lamp or a vapour in the charnel-house. It emitted a light scarcely more than darkness visible; yet still it preserved those scintillations, whose flame afterwards irradiated whole empires with its blaze. It quivered, like an expiring taper for a time, but at last kindled a torch which lighted up the avenues to education; and eventually became the light of the world in the diffusion of general knowledge, together with the peculiar radiance of revealed religion.
According to this view of the church and of ancient times, the highest learning and philosophy, even the organon of our own Verulam, the system of our own Newton, the epics of our own Milton, all the advancements in polite learning and recondite science, originating in the excited energies of the human mind, may be traced to the light, preserved, during the dark ages, in the church, and in the church only: a light which was derived from the sun of righteousness, the star in the east; that star, which beamed over Bethlehem, at once a symbol of wisdom and a guidance to the wise.
To this religious light, increasing as it advanced in our hemisphere, we confessedly owe not only the universities of this land, but the free grammar-schools founded in the great city and in almost every provincial town; and lastly, the parochial charity-schools; those seminaries of humble, but useful learning, which we are at this hour assembled, under the same auspicious light, to maintain, augment, and improve. Thus has the torch of learning kindled at the altar, been handed down, from age to age, unquenched by the barbarians of the north, whose savage fury devoted in its march, whole libraries to the flames, and (if the church, had not afforded an inviolable asylum), would have crushed with ruthless havoc, in one heap of ruin, all the remains of classical antiquity. The lustre indeed of learning, the elegance of the fine arts, the sublimity of science, had no charms in the eyes of vandal nations, and served but to upbraid them with the barbarity of their ignorance. Light was to them, as sunshine to the owl. Add to which, that they loved darkness, because their deeds were evil.
But the church secured the sacred deposit in her shrine, and saved the time-honoured rolls of wisdom, art, and science, under the veil of the temple. In the church, during times most auspicious to the progress of knowledge, some degree of education was always necessary to qualify the lowest functionaries round the altar, even the puerile attendants on the priests, for the regular performance of the ritual and liturgical service. Thus in ages most unfavourable to literary acquirements, there existed in the cathedral, the monastery, and the convent, petty schools for the instruction of young Acolytes (as they were called), instruction in reading always, and in writing often; those humble attainments which were necessary to the choral chaunt, and the responses of a prescribed formulary. Attached to religious houses was usually a repository of manuscripts, and an office termed the scriptorium, where copies of the best classics, as well as legends of the worst superstition, were not only transcribed laboriously, accurately, and sometimes most beautifully; but illuminated with the brightest colours and most delicate touches of the pencil; and it may be observed, by the way, that the practice of illuminating manuscripts, greatly promoted the fine art of painting; an art which had no inconsiderable influence in the advancement of intellectual proficiency, and the promotion of polite literature.
These conventual offices constituted a kind of eleemosynary schools, usually appendant to the church and to religious houses, and afforded a partial education; the education of young ecclesiastics, who in process of time carried the lamp, which they had lighted at the altar, into the busy walks of life, and among the circles of laic and civil society. Thus illumined in the sanctuary and the cloister, they unavoidably imparted some rays of holy light to all the labyrinths of many-coloured life. Ecclesiastics (because few others were qualified), exclusively presided over the department of education; as they continue to preside over it at this hour, by the voluntary choice and deference of the laity. The knowledge acquired in the professional study of theology, opened the avenues to general science; and the Christian religion became the nursing mother of learning as well as of virtue.
So justly and characteristically did the great luminary of Christendom predicate of himself I am the light of the world; and doubtless he who gave the light, evinced by the very act, his intention that it should be imparted by the receivers, as means and opportunity might occur, or be procured. Doubtless the gracious Being who said, let there be light, has made it our bounden duty to co-operate with his benign intentions, in communicating whatever light we may enjoy to those of our fellow-creatures who still sit in darkness, benighted in the recesses of obscure and lowly life, where poverty hides her head in shame; and ignorance, all unconscious, too often reposes in a lethargic and deadly slumber.
It has pleased the father of lights (as our father in heaven is frequently styled), that man should exercise the virtue of charity in acting on many occasions, to his fellow man, as a superior and tutelary being; but particularly, in dispensing the light of knowledge; a gift which enriches the receiver without diminution of the donor's share. It is, we may assuredly conclude, the high behest of our Creator, and the declared will of our Redeemer, that the spiritual and intellectual sun which rose at the creation, and broke forth, with added splendour at the redemption, should shine more and more until the perfect day, and in due time illuminate the universe. It was clearly the edict of Omnipotence, “Let there be light” spiritual as well as natural; and shall man contravene the command of power irresistible, acting under the impulse of mercy infinite? Greatly is it to be deplored, that some among the sons of men have exhibited signs of an audacity so presumptuous; have endeavoured to veil the eyes of the poor from the sight of things belonging to their peace; have contended, with all their ingenuity, to prevent the Sun of righteousness from shining on the cottage of labour, and cheering, with its warmth, the chill abode of unprotected indigence.
And these are they who calumniate the institution, and oppose the encouragement of charity-schools; representing our efforts to diffuse knowledge among the poor by parochial, national, and eleemosynary education, as incompatible with political wisdom, and dangerous to the state.
It is scarcely worth while to discuss all the objections which the narrow views of cold-hearted, statistical writers have suggested against the charity-schools of this benevolent country. The greatest stress is laid on two; which we may briefly consider, though at the hazard of abusing your patience. First, say they, the education of the poor encourages idleness by rendering them disinclined to labour; secondly, it disturbs the arrangement of society by confounding the ranks of regular subordination.
As to the first objection, that knowledge causes in the poor an aversion to labour, do the poor then, in their uninstructed state, labour from choice? Have they not already, with the feelings common to all mankind, an aversion to toil and 'trouble; and, if they could, would they not, like others, live a life of comparative ease? Is labour their favourite pastime, their dear delight, an exercise willingly taken for health and pleasure, like the rural sports of ranks more elevated? Is it joyous to spend the toilsome hours in the perpetual night of a mine? To turn the wheel in the manufactory from morning till evening without a prospect of cessation or variety? To bear on their shoulders the heavy burdens of merchandise? To sweat at the anvil or the plough? No, certainly; for man, when he feels no spur, stimulating him to action, is naturally inclined to bask in the sunshine, and pass his hours either in the repose of indolence, or in some selected mode of pleasant activity. Be assured that hard and constant labour, the labour of a life, is always the effect of necessity alone, imperious, unrelenting necessity. The poor labour that they may eat, they labour that they may be clothed, they labour that they may be sheltered by a roof from the inclemency of the clime. Necessary are all the objects of their labour to their bare existence. Will the daily want of food, of raiment, or of shelter be removed, by an ability acquired in the charity-schools, to read the Bible, or even to write their own names, and calculate their little earnings and expenditure? Labour they must, as they did before they learned their alphabet, and were qualified to spell out, on the repose of the sabbath, or at the close of the week-day, their Prayer-book, their Testament, their Catechism, or their Whole Duty of Man. Labour they must, as they did before they had learned by heart their duty towards God, and their duty towards their neighbour; yes, they must labour still, or they have this alternative: they must even starve, be clothed in rags, and find not where to lay their heads. The alphabet affords no substitute for bread, or raiment, or a roof for shelter and repose. Nor will a book, however good, or however well they may know how to use it, supersede the labour of the loom, the plough, the spade, and the axe. With the highest improvement which these humble schools of charity can give them, they must, at the call of nature, and under the pressure of want, submit with patience to the iron hand of necessity. And the better they are taught the lessons of religion, the more cheerfully are they likely to submit. For the improvement of their reason, the melioration of their disposition, and their awakened sense of moral rectitude, will induce them to discharge with less reluctance than before, the severest duties incumbent on their allotted state. They will probably, when trained to habits of piety, labour more abundantly, because they will feel the solace of religious hope, mitigating the pain of toil, cheering the long hours of confinement, and sweetening the intervals of liberty and leisure.
Experience has indeed removed the first objection. For in the northern division of this island all the poor are, and have long been educated, in parochial schools, with a strict attention to morality and religion. And can the united kingdom exhibit examples more uniformly excellent than those of the natives of the north, either of sobriety, industry, or submission to authority? How rarely are they convicted at the tribunal, how rarely, as victims of the law, do they suffer death, or pain, or disgrace? All of them can read, and most of them do read from choice (reading furnishing them with one favourite mode of spending their days pleasantly), and all, at the same time, are able and willing to labour, as their fortunate employers can testify, with additional skill, contentment, and alacrity, in consequence of a virtuous and pious education. Their reason improved by early culture, and their sober habits of thinking, cause them to be convinced of the necessity of their humble station, and to deem happiness perfectly compatible, as it certainly is, with honest, healthy, and industrious poverty. They feel indeed the evils of indigence; but bear them with pious and cheerful resignation to the will of that God, whom they have learned in infancy to adore. None, at the same time, are more eager to advance themselves in the ranks of life, and none do advance themselves more frequently by those virtues which recommend them to their superiors; the principles and habits of which were acquired at the places of parochial education.
And have we not in the example of the northern Britons, an incontestible proof of the utility, even in a political sense, of national or universal instruction? Have we not an attestation, under the seal of experience, that the exertions of the labourer, and the ingenuity of the mechanic are not impeded or diminished; but promoted by teaching them to read and write? And since the result of experience must ever supersede the most subtle speculations of theory, the first question, appears to be unanswerably decided.
Painful and invidious would it be, to compare the effects of neglected education among the poor natives of our sister island, a brave and generous race, furnished by nature with keen sensibility and ardent genius, but sometimes barbarized and brutalized, through the defect of early discipline. Who but must weep over these forlorn children of want, when blinded by ignorance, and seduced by passion, they fall victims to the laws of their country; ever ready as they are, to stand foremost in her battles, and bleed in her defence. The contrast of this neighbouring island with the northern parts of our own is striking; and the difference in this state of the common people is sufficient to repel every attack of that sophistry which insinuates, that to enlighten the lower classes, is to encourage idleness, with all its consequent vice and woe.
And with respect to the second objection, which asserts that to educate the poor is to disturb subordination; it is true indeed, that, before the discovery of that most important art, the art of printing, the highest orders of society, in this, and all other countries of Europe, were grossly illiterate. It is true that, to have taught the lower orders to read, at that inauspicious period, might, in the natural course of things, have had a tendency to revolution. In point of knowledge, the rich and great would have been inferior to the poor and lowly; and since knowledge is power, the cone (to which a well arranged community has been compared,) might have been inverted. But under the present circumstances of Europe, no such effect can result from instructing the poor universally. By the diffusion of knowledge, consequent on the typographical invention, the whole fabric of society has been elevated. Therefore the poor stand higher than they did before; but they still form the basis of the pyramid. The regular gradation to the apex is not, in the smallest degree, disturbed. The poor man is elevated positively, but not relatively; and so, in exact proportion, is the rich man. Both have risen together, lifted up with the whole frame. The base is not raised from its own proper and subordinate place; but the platform itself, the area, the united pile, is exalted above its ancient level. The pedestal is not altered either by elongation or transposition. The Corinthian column still towers in all its beauty, majesty, and altitude. The Doric and Tuscan stand below, plain yet massy. The extreme ranks do not approximate. The rich and poor indeed, as God appointed, do occasionally meet together, for many wise purposes, yet in the arrangements of social order, they remain distant and distinct, at their just, natural, and appropriate interval The fabric is still firm; its solidity increased by accessions to its magnificence; and the stability of the capital secured by added breadth and gravity at the foundation.
It seems indeed probable, that the more mind there is in any free nation, the more intellect in the mass of the people, the stronger will be the whole social edifice, from the subterraneous cell, up to the cloud-capt dome; for instead of such materials as hay and stubble (to use the scriptural expressions,) its beams will be of oak, its bars of iron, and its walls of marble. Mind is the basis of all permanent power; and woe to the potentate who expects lasting security from the tottering props of plebeian ignorance. He builds, like the fool, on the sand, who erects a dynasty on the superstition, the prejudices, or the passions of a populace grossly ignorant, and therefore easily misguided and urged to deeds of frenzy.
And so much for the second objection to charity-schools, which originates in an idea that they weaken empire and endanger tranquillity by disturbing subordination. “Pride,” it has been well observed, “is not founded on the improvement of the understanding, but on the weakness and defects of it.” None are prouder, “than the most foolish of the animals around us; and, it is ignorance of what is better, which makes men suppose they are possessed of all excellence.”
But why should I fatigue attention by enumerating, or confuting the cavils of minute philosophers and petty politicians, who pretend, and have asserted, that none of our charitable institutions are consistent with an enlightened policy? What is this policy? It is at best but a worldly policy, which in this instance, Christian wisdom repudiates with disdain. Even as a worldly policy I think it erroneous. And how, as they pretend, is it enlightened? Not surely by the light which flows from the great luminary of Christianity, from the sacred lamp at the altar; but by the false fire, the ignus fatuus of vanity; or, the factitious phosphor of atheistical philosophy; a philosophy, which idolizes matter, and falls down in adoration of nature in preference to its Author.
Let us beware also of that narrow system of modern times which would govern men in society on principles of mere calculation; which appreciates human life at a low rate, and is ready to sacrifice millions at the unhallowed shrines of avarice and ambition. Among the recent refinements, of a god-less wisdom is that which considers the Lord of the creation merely as a sensitive machine, with eyes, arms, hands, and fingers, formed to manufacture some commodity or luxury, saleable in the emporiums of commerce; merely as an animated engine, to be worked at the will of opulence and power, for pecuniary emolument; merely as a breathing mill, or animal automaton, which cannot stand still a moment, for the purposes of moral and religious discipline, without irreparable loss of time and unpardonable waste of wealth; a political delinquency, in the estimate of the modern sophist and statistical calculator, more culpable and heinous than any infringement of the decalogue.
Such policy, such a principle, such a philosophy has no credit, no weight, no influence on a Christian auditory, before whom, to mention is to condemn, to describe, is to explode and reject it. The wealth of nations in a Christian's estimate is the goodness, the probity, the virtuous industry, and useful knowledge, amongst individuals, high and low, rich and poor, who constitute the grand aggregate of a national community. The mind is the man; and doubtless the bulwark of a country, is the noble spirit of a sound, virtuous, religious people, duly informed by a competent education, and effectually restrained from all injustice and enormity, by the fear of God, and a Christian conscience.
Truth and reason, under all existing circumstances, are great, and will endure, as well as prevail. These form the columns of society, and like a rock of adamant, will stand the violence of the waves, and defy the corrosions of time, and the shocks of casualty. But how can truth and reason exist in the mass of the people without knowledge? and how can knowledge become general and pervade the whole body without national education, furnished to the poor by eleemosynary bounty, as it is to the rich, by their own voluntary choice and personal assiduity?
Consistently with this conviction, and acting with the sound policy of the children of light, you have persevered, notwithstanding the plausibility of objections, in patronising, improving, and augmenting, your charity-schools. Consistently with your persuasion, as members of the church of England, you have been zealous that the national schools, as well as the parochial, should be conducted according to the principles, doctrines, and discipline of the established religion. Charity-schools, whether parochial or national, you are aware, are the porch, and the vestibule, either to the church or the conventicle. You deem it of most momentous importance to the church, that the direct avenues to it should be made smooth and clean, aud light and pleasant. If the entrances to the sanctuary of the establishment are neglected, or unilluminated, you are justly apprehensive, that the imbecility of youth may be seduced from the paths of peace and sober piety into the wilderness of fanatical error; and lost in labyrinths, where discordant guides, often differing no less from each other than from the church, might lead the poor wanderer through the thorns of perplexity to the whirlpools of madness and despair.
Consistently and kindly you hold out a lanthorn to the church, and let your light shine before the feet of the young pilgrim in his progress to the sanctuary; the seat of rational piety, the school of sound instruction; the standard of a light which illuminates without dazzling; the receptacle of a fire which warms without burning; the dispenser of a heat which cherishes the vital principle, without danger of a morbid calenture. Sound religion, you well know, is equally removed from the extremes of a chilling rigor and an ardent fever. And happily our church, in addition to its advantages in disseminating a sound religion with a pure morality, is wisely adapted to the nature and genius of our civil constitution. It is highly favourable to public tranquillity. It is an impregnable rampart not only against infidelity, atheism, and fanaticism, but against sedition, tumult, and insubordination. It allows and favours freedom of discussion; while it preserves for the common good, an authority necessary to prevent confusion and all the evil works of anarchical misrule. It is built on the foundation of the Scriptures, the prophets, and the apostles; Jesus Christ being the head corner stone. Therefore we must love our church, therefore we must defend our church; and defend it with a zeal no less ardent, than that which we display for the constitution of the state; that free and wise system of our forefathers, which has rendered our island the pride and ornament of civil society. And how can we defend it more effectually than by educating our youth in its doctrines? Yet in the utmost ardour of affection for both church and state, the spirit of Christianity demands that we support our own institutions with all the mildness of moderation, all the forbearance of philanthropy, without bitterness, without hypocrisy, speaking the truth in love, and maintaining our own conviction of rectitude with every indulgence that may consist with wisdom, to human error and fallibility.
With a natural attachment to the church, of which we are members, we come forward at this juncture, not only to support our old charity-schools, but to augment their numbers and improve their plan; by adopting the newly discovered modes of facilitation, expedition, and economy, imported under happy auspices, from an eastern clime; that clime, from which light of every kind, natural, intellectual, and spiritual, first beamed on mortal man, wandering and lost in the shades of ignorance. As churchmen, we cannot but favour a system which favours our own church; the church of our fathers, the church of our children and families, the church of our country; a great and glorious church, richly adorned with sanctity and learning, with temples most magnificent, with all appendages adequate to its use and ornament, and become even more venerable, and if possible, more hallowed, from the circumstances of long duration and high antiquity. As churchmen, we must patronise a system which instructs the youth of our nation in the cathechism of our excellent liturgy, and which conducts them to that place of worship, Where our own children were initiated by baptism, and which we ourselves, from choice and for conscience sake, frequent, as often as we assemble to pour forth our praises and thanksgivings to Almighty God, and to hear the words of sound, sober, and scriptural instruction.
In schools superintended by a church, which discountenances the extravagance of enthusiasm, soberness of mind will be taught; and soberness of mind is essential to the permanency of all religious principle. Without it, religion becomes insanity; and its votaries, under the effects of a disordered imagination, too often, instead of a school and a church, require the discipline of the physician, and the manacles of an hospital.
It is to be hoped that the spirit of party will never interrupt these labours of love. Charity rejoices that good is done, and is not forward to depreciate the deed or the doer of it, from schismatical prejudice; and therefore the Christian philanthrope will not oppose the national instruction of the church catechism. How indeed can we train up the youth of the nation better, than by teaching them, in the words of the catechism, “to love, honour, and succour their father and mother, to honour and obey the king, and all that are put in authority under him: to hurt nobody by word or deed: to be true and just in all their dealings, to keep their hands from picking and stealing, and their tongues from lying and slandering; to keep their body in soberness and chastity; not to covet or desire other mens goods, but to learn and labour to get their own living, and do their duty in that state of life, to “which it shall please God to call them.”Can we, I ask, teach them in any better manner than by words like these; founding all their moral virtues on the love of God, on obedience to Christ, and on reverence for law and order, human and divine.
To give the poor children this sort of education, to inspire them with the fear of God, and to afford them the means of learning every thing that is honest and of good report, you are now assembled; and for the promotion of your purpose, a purpose recommended by patriotism, by Christianity, by the example of our grand national institution, and indeed of the united kingdom, I stand this day the delegated petitioner of your bounty. But solicitation is superfluous. Your bounty has, I see, by the annual subscriptions flowed, and will continue to flow, with spontaneous exuberance. It would be a violation of the respect due to a congregation, avowedly assembled for the purpose of charitable contribution, to weary you with importunity, or prescribe to your munificence. You want not the impulse of argument and persuasion to extort the reluctant pittance of a cold, formal decency, the scanty dole of the parsimonious hand which grudges while it gives. The happy return of peace and plenty at this moment will probably cause a peculiar expansion of heart, and kindle a more than common glow of benevolence. Our country, amidst the wreck of nations around, has shone forth with undiminished lustre, as the land of liberty, the land of learning, sound philosophy, pure religion, and on this occasion I may add with peculiar triumph, the land of charity; of charity which no privations of long and severe adversity could impede or confine. Our country, in consequence of her steady adherence to religion, in faith and practice, lifts up her head among the nations, the pride and boast of humanity, the glory, the envy, the defence of Europe; nor can I for a moment fear, lest her lustre should be ever tarnished, on occasions like these, by an ill-timed parsimony. You will as patriots, no less than Christians (as far as such an occasion will allow,) adorn the triumphs of her valour with the trophies of benevolence. You gave largely to foreigners in distress; but at the same time forgot not the child of poverty at your own doors, who was perishing through lack of knowledge, and on whom the light of the gospel had scarcely emitted a ray, though all around him was illuminated. You saw the poor vagabond in the streets of the great city; you recognised him as a brother. You remembered, that in the most forlorn outcast and abject, (squalid and deplorable though his exterior,) there is an immortal spirit, which we hope one day may be a partaker with ourselves in a state of glory, of consummate intelligence, of mutual kindness, of exalted felicity. Rough, forbidding, perhaps offensive is the guise of the ragged, famished, wanderer; yet is there a jewel within, a pearl of price, which, with your aid will be disengaged from its incrustation, and prepared to shine, in the light of Christ, with all its primeval brilliancy.
And even in this sublunary state, the effects of education in raising poor persons to great eminence and public utility, have been wonderful. The most illustrious characters in arts and arms have arisen, from the darkest, lowest, vale of obscurity. They have sprung with elastic force to Extraordinary heights in consequence of native' strength, called forth by early culture. Fenced from injury at first, they have risen and towered above their equals, by the hardihood acquired in a chill soil; and, like the oak of the forest, or the pine on the mountain, vegetated with luxuriancy in the bleakest exposure and the wildest solitude. Adversity has indeed been found often favourable to virtue. Many examples might be cited from the pages of biography. Our gracious Lord himself, we know, was despised and rejected of men—a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and the luminary of the world had been at once, and for ever extinguished, if the pride and prejudice of man could have prevailed against the will of the Almighty. But the crown of thorns, which the insolence of authority bound round his bleeding brow, became a more splendid ornament than a diadem of jewels; the dove, a more triumphant standard than the Roman eagle; and the cross, lifted up on high, an ensign more glorious than the banners crimsoned with gore, which waved in the wind, to emblazon a Cæsar's victory. Humble as was the birth of the carpenter's son, mean as the manger that cradled him, dark and dismal as the hour of his crucifixion, he it was who ascended on high, and led captivity captive. He it was who became, what he styled himself, the light of the world, and dispensed those rays, which, under your charitable administration, may lighten the path of these little ones, not only to useful and creditable employments and stations in this world, but to a consummation of. bliss in realms of light and glory; the light of God's countenance, and the glory of immortal life. And is good so great to be done by any deed of ours this day, and this hour, before we separate? How sweet must be the satisfaction, how serene and exquisite the joy of a well-disposed mind, to consider that the donation of a little superfluity, will contribute to a purpose so extensively, so sublimely, so divinely beneficial. How sleeps the kind-hearted man, lulled on his pillow with the soothing reflection that he has not lost a day by losing an opportunity to do good to some poor unfortunate fellow-creature; but that he has humbly cooperated with his Lord and Saviour, in a work of love and mercy, and mitigated, in one instance, the sorrows of suffering humanity.
To a mind so disposed, it must be consolatory to reflect, that a grand effort, an effort unprecedented in the history of the world, is now made in our own distinguished country, to advance the happiness of the poor, and indeed to enlighten the understanding, and meliorate the morals of the human race. The poor have now the gospel preached to them, by the instrumentality of the press, by the universal distribution of the Scriptures, and by national schools, in a manner, and to an extent, unparalleled at any previous period, since the light of the world first burst on chaos, in the morning of creation. The result of such labours of love, operating universally, must, at some future period, become stupendously beneficial. Christ declared himself the light of the world; and it has been reserved, (in the unsearchable ways of providence,) for the age in which we exist to diffuse that light, in our own country, to the remotest corners and the darkest recesses, in which penury and ignorance lie helplessly enveloped. The æra may be pronounced (when we take a view of the multiplied public charities around, and consider the vigorous efforts of laity and clergy combined,) the jubilee of Christian benevolence. And shall any one here assembled not be emulous to take a part in this work, and ambitious to become an instrument in the hand of heaven, in communicating the light, which he himself perhaps has amply enjoyed from his infancy; in consequence of more favourable opportunities, and the advantages afforded by competency, not only for a useful, but a liberal education.
Is there one among us who will avow that he wishes not to share in the generous contest of beneficence? But why ask the question? The deeds of charity, already recorded in the rolls of annual subscription, demonstrate your zeal in the cause, and remove all doubt of your liberality in its support. I have already said I need not importune you. I cannot for a moment, distrust that generosity, on which your voluntary attendance at this hour, (as you were well aware of the occasion,) justifies, or rather demands, a full and unqualified reliance. I can only venture to urge (aud this also may be unnecessary), that you be careful to act, in dispensing your bounty, from a motive purely evangelical. Manage not so ill, as to be bountiful and at the same time uncharitable. Paradoxical as it may appear, the case is possible, and, it may be feared, not uncommon. To avoid it, let us pray that our hearts may be filled with grace, while our hands are extended in munificence. This is to be charitable to our own souls, while we give to others pecuniary assistance. This is to consecrate our gift to God, and to secure the favour of him, whose mercy the most opulent of us all must one day supplicate, with all the earnestness of abject mendicity.
May then the Holy Spirit influence with his affectionate energies all who are here assembled, and give them grace, not only to promote the good work, but to promote it, from the true Christian principle, which is faith working by love.
How significant the words∗ Faith working by love∗ Mark them, ponder them. They form an epitome of the whole doctrine of Christian charity, and may serve as a test and touchstone to assay the sincerity of our virtue.
Such a faith, actuated and acting by such a love, will unbar the gates of light, that glorious light which streams from the world's great luminary, and cooperate with the father of lights in pouring its beams on all the sons and daughters of want; guiding their feet through the shadowy vale of ignorance, labour, and sorrow, to realms of everlasting rest, along the safe, luminous, pleasant path of piety and peace. Such a faith, actuated and acting by such a love, will cause the sun of righteousness to shine over their, and our own prospects of futurity, and open to the view of all, those regions of glory, to which the only infallible guide is charity; charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.
end of volume the sixth.