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so, without his having any restraint or trouble in the matAnd the education which children of better rank must have for their improvement in the common accomplishments belonging to it, is of course, as yet, for the most part, attended with some sort of religious education. But the poor, as they cannot provide persons to educate their children; so, from the way in which they live together in poor families, a child must be an eye and ear witness of the worst part of his parents' talk and behaviour. And it cannot but be expected, that his own will be formed upon it. For as example in general has very great influence upon all persons, especially children, the example of their parents is of authority with them, when there is nothing to balance it on the other side. Now take in the supposition, that these parents are dissolute, profligate people; then, over and above giving their children no sort of good instruction, and a very bad example, there are more crimes than one, in which, it may be feared, they will directly instruct and encourage them; besides letting them ramble abroad wherever they will, by which, of course, they learn the very same principles and manners they do at home. And from all these things together, such poor children will have their characters formed to vice, by those whose business it is to restrain them from it. They will be disciplined and trained up in it. This surely is a case which ought to have some public provision made for it. If it cannot have an adequate one, yet such a one as it can; unless it be thought so rare as not to deserve our attention. But, in reality, though there should be no more parents of this character amongst the poor in proportion, than amongst the rich, the case which I have been putting will be far from being uncommon. Now, notwithstanding the danger to which the children of such wretched parents cannot but be exposed, from what they see at home; yet, by instilling into them the principles of virtue and religion at school, and placing them soon out in sober families, there is ground to hope they may avoid those ill
courses, and escape that ruin, into which, without this care, they would almost certainly run. I need not add how much greater ground there is to expect, that those of the children who have religious parents, will do well. For such parents, besides setting their children a good example, will likewise repeat and enforce upon them at home, the good instructions they receive at school.
After all, we find the world continues very corrupt. And it would be miraculous indeed, if charity schools alone should make it otherwise; or if they should make even all who are brought up in them, proof against its corruptions. The truth is, every method that can be made use of to prevent or reform the bad manners of the age, will appear to be of less effect, in proportion to the greater occasion there is for it as cultivation, though the most proper that can be, will produce less fruit, or of a worse sort, in a bad climate than in a good one. And thus the character of the common people, with whom these children are to live in the ordinary intercourse of business and company when they come out into the world, may more or less defeat the good effects of their education. And so likewise may the character of men of rank, under whose influence they are to live. But whatever danger may be apprehended from either or both of these, it can be no reason why we should not endeavor, by the likeliest methods we can, to better the world, or keep it from growing worse. The good tendency of the method before us is unquestionable. And I think myself obliged to add, that upon a comparison of parishes where charity schools have been for a considerable time established, with neighboring ones, in like situations, which have had none, the good effects of them, as I am very credibly informed, are most manifest. Notwithstanding, I freely own, that it is extremely difficult to make the necessary comparisons in this case, and form a judgment upon them. And a multitude of circumstances must come in to determine, from appearances only, concerning the positive good which is pro
duced by this charity, and the evil which is prevented by it; which last is full as material as the former, and can scarce be estimated at all. But surely there can be no doubt whether it be useful or not to educate children in order, virtue, and religion.
However, suppose, which is yet far from being the case, but suppose it should seem, that this undertaking did not answer the expense and trouble of it, in the civil or political way of considering things, what is this to persons who profess to be engaged in it, not only upon mere civil views, but upon moral and Christian ones? We are to do our endeavors to promote virtue and religion amongst men, and leave the success to God. The designs of his providence are answered by these endeavors, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear ;" i. e. whatever be the success of them: and the least success in such endeavors is a great and valuable effect.*
From these foregoing observations, duly considered, it will appear, that the objections which have been made against charity schools, are to be regarded in the same light with those which are made against any other necessary things; for instance, against providing for the sick and the aged poor. Objections in this latter case could be considered no otherwise than merely as warnings of some inconvenience which might accompany such charity, and might, more or less, be guarded against, the charity itself being still kept up; or as proposals for placing it upon some better foot. For though, amidst the disorder and imperfection in all human things, these objections were not obviated, they could not however possibly be understood as reasons for discontinuing such charity; because, thus understood, they would be reasons for leaving necessitous people to perish. Well disposed persons, therefore, will take care, that they be not deluded with objections against this before us, any more than against other necessary charities, as though such objections were
* See the Sermon before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
reasons for suppressing them, or not contributing to their support, unless we can procure an alteration of that to which we object. There can be no possible reasons for leaving poor children in that imminent danger of ruin, in which many of these must be left, were it not for this charity. Therefore objections against it cannot, from the nature of the case, amount to more than reasons for endeavoring, whether with or without success, to put it upon a right and unexceptionable foot, in the particular respects objected against. And if this be the intention of the objectors, the managers of it have shown themselves remarkably ready to second them; for they have shown even a docility in receiving admonitions of any thing thought amiss in it, and proposals for rendering it more complete. And, under the influence of this good spirit, the management of it is really improving; particularly in greater endeavors to introduce manufactures into these schools, and in more particular care to place the children out to employments in which they are most wanted, and may be most serviceable, and which are most suitable to their ranks. But if there be any thing in the management of them, which some particular persons think should be altered, and others are of a contrary opinion, these things must be referred to the judgment of the public, and the determination of the public complied with. Such compliance is an essential principle of all charitable associations, for without it they could not subsist at all; and by charitable associations, multitudes are put in mind to do good, who otherwise would not have thought of it; and infinitely more good may be done, than possibly can by the separate endeavors of the same number of charitable persons. Now, he who refuses to help forward the good work before us, because it is not conducted exactly in his own way, breaks in upon that general principle of union, which those who are friends to the indigent and distressed part of our fellow creatures, will be very cautious how they do in any case; but more especially will they beware, how they break in upon that necessary principle in a case of so great importance as is the present. For the public.
is as much interested in the education of poor children, as in the preservation of their lives.
This last, I observed, is legally provided for. The former is left amongst other works of charity, neglected by many who care for none of these things, and to be carried on by such only as think it their concern to be doing good. Some of you are able, and in a situation, to assist in it in an eminent degree, by being trustees, and overlooking the management of these schools; or in different ways countenancing and recommending them, as well as by contributing to their maintenance: others can assist only in this latter way. In what manner and degree then it belongs to you, and to me, and to any particular person, to help it forward, let us all consider seriously, not for one another, but each of us for himself.
And may the blessing of Almighty God accompany this work of charity, which he has put into the hearts of his servants, in behalf of those poor children that being now "trained up in the way they should go, when they are old they may not depart from it." May he, of his mercy, keep them safe amidst the innumerable dangers of this bad world, through which they are to pass, and preserve them unto his heavenly kingdom.