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their best endeavors to do it. And others make a custom of giving to idle vagabonds; a kind of charity, very improperly so called, which one really wonders people can allow themselves in, merely to be relieved from importunity, or at best to gratify a false good nature. For they cannot but know, that it is, at least, very doubtful, whether what they thus give will not immediately be spent in riot and debauchery. Or suppose it be not, yet still they know they do a great deal of certain mischief, by encouraging this shameful trade of begging in the streets, and all the disorders which accompany it. By the charities towards which I now ask your assistance, as they are always open, so every one may contribute to them with full assurance, that he bestows upon proper objects, and, in general, that he does vastly more good, than by equal sums given separately to particular persons. For that these charities really have these advantages, has been fully made out by some who have gone before me in the duty I am discharging, and by the reports annually published at this time.
(Here the Report was read.)
Let us thank God for these charities, in behalf of the poor, and also on our own behalf, as they give us such clear opportunities of doing good. Indeed, without them, vice and misery, of which there is still so much, would abound so much more in this populous city, as to render it scarce an inhabitable place.
Amongst the peculiar advantages of public charities above private ones, is also to be mentioned, that they are examples of great influence. They serve for perpetual memorials of what I have been observing, of the relation which subsists between the rich and the poor, and the duties which arise out of it. They are standing admonitions to all within sight or hearing of them, "to go and do likewise."* Educating poor children in virtue and religion, relieving the sick, and correcting offenders
* Luke. x. 37.
in order to their amendment, are, in themselves, some of the very best of good works. These charities would indeed be the glory of your city, though their influence were confined to it. But important as they are in themselves, their importance still increases, by their being examples to the rest of the nation; which, in process of time, of course copies after the metropolis. It has, indeed, already imitated every one of these charities; for, of late, the most difficult and expensive of them, hospitals for the sick and wounded, have been established; some within your sight, others in remote parts of the kingdom. You will give me leave to mention particularly that in its second trading city,* which is conducted with such disinterested fidelity and prudence, as I dare venture to compare with yours. Again, there are particular persons very blameably inactive and careless, yet not without good dispositions, who, by these charities, are reminded of their duty, andt "provoked to love and to good works." And let me add, though one is sorry any should want so slight a reason for contributing to the most excellent designs, yet if any are supposed to do so merely of course, because they see others do it, still they help to support these monuments of charity, which are a continued admonition to the rich, and relief to the poor: and herein all good men rejoice, as St Paul speaks of himself in a like case, "yea, and will rejoice."
*As it is a very particular benefit to those, who ought always to be looked upon with particular favor by us, I mean our seamen, so likewise it is of very extensive benefit to the large tracts of country, west and north of it. Then the medical waters near the city render it a still more proper situation for an infirmary. And so likewise does its neighborhood to the Bath hospital. For it may well be supposed, that some poor objects will be sent thither, in hopes of relief from the Bath-waters, whose case may afterwards be found to require the assistance of physic or surgery; and, on the other hand, that some may be sent to our imfirmary for help from those arts, whose case may be found to require the Bath-waters. So that, if I am not greatly partial, the Bristol infirmary as much deserves encouragement, as any charitable foundation in the kingdom.
† Heb. x. 24,
Phil. i. 18.
3. As all human schemes admit of improvement, all public charities, methinks, should be considered as standing open to proposals for it; that the whole plan of them, in all its parts, may be brought to as great perfection as is possible. Now it should seem, that employing some share of the children's time in easy labor, suitable to their age, which is done in some of our charity-schools, might be done in most others of them, with very good effect; as it is in all those of a neighboring kingdom. Then, as the only purposes of punishments, less than capital, are to reform the offenders themselves, and warn the innocent by their example, every thing which should contribute to make this kind of punishments answer these purposes better than it does, would be a great improvement. And whether it be not a thing practicable, and what would contribute somewhat towards it, to exclude utterly all sorts of revel-mirth from places where offenders are confined, to separate the young from the old, and force them both, in solitude, with labor and low diet, to make the experiment, how far their natural strength of mind can support them under guilt, and shame, and poverty; this may deserve consideration. Then again, some religious instruction, particularly adapted to their condition, would as properly accompany those punishments which are intended to reform, as it does capital ones. God forbid that I should be understood to discourage the provision which is made for it in this latter case; I heartily wish it were better than it is; especially since it may well be supposed, as the state of religion is at present among us, that some condemned malefactors may have never had the doctrine of the gospel enforced upon their consciences. But since it must be acknowledged of greater consequence in a religious, as well as civil respect, how persons live, than how they die; it cannot but be even more incumbent on us, to endeavor, in all ways, to reclaim those offenders who are to return again into the world, than those who are to be removed out of it; and the only effectual means of reclaiming them, is to instil into them
a principle of religion. If persons of authority and influence would take things of this and a like kind under their consideration, they might perhaps still improve those charities; which are already, I truly believe, under a better management than any other of so large a compass in the world. But,
4. With regard to the two particular branches of them last mentioned, I would observe, that our laws and whole constitution, civil and ecclesiastical, go more upon supposition of an equality amongst mankind, than the constitution and laws of any other countries. Now this plainly requires, that more particular regard should be had to the education of the lower people here, than in places where they are born slaves of power, and to be made slaves of superstition. It is, I suppose, acknowledged, that they have greater liberty here, than they have any where else in the world. But unless care be taken for giving them some inward principle, to prevent their abusing this greater liberty, which is their birth-right, can we expect it will prove a blessing to them? Or will they not, in all probability, become more dissolute, or more wild and extravagant, whatever wrong turn they happen to take, than people of the same rank in other countries?
5. Let me again remind you of the additional reason which persons of fortune have to take particular care of their whole behaviour, that it be in all respects good and exemplary, upon account of the influence which it will have upon the manners of their inferiors. And pray cbserve how strictly this is connected with the occasion of our present meeting; how much your good behaviour in private life will contribute to promote the good design of all these charities; and how much the contrary would tend to defeat it, and even to produce the evils which they are intended to prevent or to remedy. Whatever care be taken in the education of these poor children at school, there is always danger of their being corrupted when they come from it. And this danger is greater, in proportion to the greater wickedness of the age they are
to pass through. But if, upon their coming abroad into the world, they find the principles of virtue and religion recommended by the example of their superiors, and vice and irreligion really discountenanced, this will confirm them in the good principles in which they have been brought up, and give the best ground to hope they will never depart from them. And the like is to be said of offenders, who may have had a sense of virtue and religion wrought in them, under the discipline of labor and confinement. Again; dissolute and debauched persons of fortune greatly increase the general corruption of manners; and this is what increases want and misery of all kinds. So that they may contribute largely to any or all of these charities, and yet undo but a very small part of the mischief which they do, by their example, as well as in other ways. But still the mischief which they do, suppose by their example, is an additional reason why they should contribute to them; even in justice to particular persons, in whose ruin they may have an unknown share of guilt, or, however, in justice to society in general; for which they will deserve commendation, how blameable soever they are for the other. And, indeed, amidst the dark prospect before us, from that profligateness of manners and scorn of religion, which so generally abound, this good spirit of charity to the poor discovering itself in so great a degree, upon these occasions, and likewise in the late necessitous time, even amongst persons far from being blameless in other respects this cannot but afford hopes, that we are not given over by Providence, and also that they themselves will at length consider, and not go on contributing, by the example of their vices, to the introduction of that distress, which they so commendably relieved by their liberality.
To conclude; Let our charity towards men be exalted into piety towards God, from the serious consideration, that we are all his creatures; a consideration which enforces that duty upon our consciences, as we have any regard to him. This kind of adjuration, and a most