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TEMPORAL NECESSITIES OF THE POOR.
BY THOMAS CHALMERS,
MINISTER OF THE TRON CHURCH, GLASGOW.
1. The Objection stated-2. The Radical Answer to it.-3. But the Objection is not true in point of fact.-4. A former act of charity does not exempt from the obligation of a new act, if it can be afforded.-5. Estimate of the encroachment made by the Bible Society upon the funds of the country,- 6. A Subscriber to the Bible Society does not give less to the Poor on that account,---7. Evidence for the truth of this assertion. ---8. And explanation of its principle. (1.) The ability for other acts of charity nearly as entire as before.---9. (2) And the disposition greater.---10. Poverty is better kept under by a preventive, than by a positive treatment.---11. Exemplified in Scotland.--12. The Bible Society has a strong preventive operation.--.13. And therefore promotes the secular interests of the Poor.-14. The argument carried down to the case of Penny Societies.-- 15. Difficulty in the exposition of the argument.-16. The effects of a charitable endowment in a parish pernicious to the Poor.-17. By inducing a dependance upon it.---18. And stripping them of their industrious habits...-19. The effects of a Bible Association are in an opposite direction to those of a charitable endowment.---20. And it stands completely free of all the objections to which a tax is liable.---21. A Bible Association gives dignity to the Poor.---22. And a delicate reluctance to pauperism.--23. The shame of pauperism is the best defence against it.---24. How a Bible Association augments this feeling.-25. By dignifying the Poor.--26. And adding to the influ ence of Bible Principles---27. Exemplified in the humblest situation.-28. The progress of these Associations in the country.---29. Compared with other Associations for the relief of temporal necessities.---30. The more salutary influence of Bible Associations.-31. And how they counteract the pernicious influence of other charities.-32 It is best to confide the secular relief of the Poor to individual benevolence.---33. And a bible Association both augments and enlightens this principle.
1. WITHOUT entering into the positive claims of the Bible Society upon the generosity of the public, I shall endeavour to away an objection which meets us at the very outset of every attempt to raise a subscription, or to found an institution in its favour. The secular necessities of the poor are brought into competition with it, and every shilling given to the Bible Society is represented as an encroachment upon that fund which was before allocated to the relief of poverty.
2. Admitting the fact stated in have an answer in readiness for it.
the objection to be true, we
If the Bible Society accom
plish its professed object, which is, to make those who were be
fore ignorant of the Bible better acquainted with it, then the advantage given more than atones for the loss sustained. We stand upon the high ground, that eternity is no longer than time, and the unfading enjoyments of the one a boon more valuable than the perishable enjoyments of the other. Money is sometimes expended for the idle purpose of amusing the poor by the gratuitous exhibition of a spectacle or show. It is a far wiser distribution of the money when it is transferred from this object to the higher and more useful objects of feeding those among them who are hungry, clothing those among them who are naked, and paying for medicine or attendance to those among them who are sick. We make bold to say, that if money for the purpose could be got from no other quarter, it would be a wiser distribution still to withdraw it from the objects last mentioned to the supreme object of paying for the knowledge of religion to those among them who are ignorant; and, at the hazard of being execrated by many, we do not hesitate to affirm, that it is better for the poor to be worse fed and worse clothed, than that they should be left ignorant of those Scriptures, which are able to make them wise unto salvation through the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
3. But the statement contained in the objection is not true. It seems to go upon the supposition, that the fund for relieving the temporal wants of the poor is the only fund which exists in the country; and that when any new object of benevolence is started, there is no other fund to which we can repair for the requisite expenses. But there are other funds in the country. There is a prodigious fund for the maintenance of Government, nor do we wish that fund to be encroached upon by a single farthing. There is a fund out of which the people of the land are provided in the necessaries of life and before we incur the odium of trenching upon necessaries, let us first inquire, if there be no other fund in existence. Go then to all who are elevated above the class of mere labourers, and you will find in their possession a fund, out of which they are provided with what are commonly called the superfluities of life. We do not dispute their right to these superfluities, nor do we deny the quantity of pleasure which lies in the enjoyment of them. We only state
the existence of such a fund, and that by a trifling act of selfdenial on the part of those who possess it, we could obtain all that we are pleading for. It is a little hard, that the competition should be struck between the fund of the Bible Society and the fund for relieving the temporal wants of the poor, while the far larger and more transferable fund for superfluities is left out of consideration entirely, and suffered to remain an untouched and unimpaired quantity. In this way, the odium of hostility to the poor is fastened upon those who are labouring for their most substantial interests, while a set of men who neglect the immortality of the poor, and would leave their souls to perish, are suffered to sheer off with the credit of all the finer sympa. thies of our nature.
4. To whom much is given, of them much will be required. Whatever be your former liberalities in another direction, when a new and a likely direction of benevolence is pointed out, the question still comes back upon you, What have you to spare? If there be a remainder left, it is by the extent of this remainder that you will be judged; and it is not right to set the claims of the Bible Society against the secular necessities of the poor, while means so ample are left, that the true way of instituting the competition is to set these claims against some personal gratification which it is in your power to abandon. Have a care, lest with the language of philanthropy in your mouth, you shall be found guilty of the cruellest indifference to the true welfare of the species, and lest the Discerner of your heart shall perceive how it prefers some sordid iudulgence of its own to the dearest interests of those around you.
5. But let me not put to hazard the prosperity of our cause, by resting it on a standard of charity far too elevated for the general practice of the times. Let us now drop our abstract reasoning upon the respective funds, and come to an actual specification of their quantities. The truth is, that the fund for the Bible Society is so very small, that it is not entitled to make its appearance in any abstract argument whatever, and were it not to do away even the shadow of an objection, we would have been ashamed to have thrown the argument into the lan. guage of general discussion. What shall we think of the objec. VOL. VI.-7