Page images
PDF
EPUB

ute-book. Let those worse than infidel husbands and fathers, who will not provide for their own households, be visited with the heaviest legal penalties, which the wisdom of your ancestors has provided, as a just retribution upon their heads, and a solemn warning to others.

From the preceding sketch of what is due to the adult poor, we pass,

2. To consider what can be done for their children.Here, I think, the general course which ought to be pursued is plain. The children of the poor should be regarded equally with others, as rational, accountable, and immortal beings; as equally capable of improvement in knowledge, in virtue, in holiness ; as no unlikely candidates, under wise management, for wealth, and power, and influence. If your first object, therefore, should be to clothe their nakedness and satisfy the cravings of hunger, your ultimate views should be directed to more important and durable benefits. Upon your wisdom, union, and perseverance, in regard to their education, using the term in its largest sense, almost everything must depend. By proper management, they may become useful members of society, and even ornaments of the next generation. But should their education be neglected, what can you expect from them hereafter, but ignorance, vice, and poverty ? Let them all, then, be sent early to school. Let them be faithfully instructed in common learning, at the public expense.

Let them, as early as possible, be placed in good families, where they may be well fed and elothed; where they may be trained up in habits of industry and sobriety, and where their minds may be early imbued with the principles of sound morality and true religion. Your laws have very wisely devolved this duty upon the Selectmen, as overseers of the poor, and have

constituted them the guardians and protectors of such children. But these overseers ought to be assisted in finding suitable places, by all who wish well to the poor, and who have a desire to promote the best interests of society. In order to give full effect to this benevolent provision, the pious and charitable must sometimes make a trifling sacrifice of present interest, by receiving poor children into their families, before they are old enough to earn their living.

I have no time, brethren, to fill up the outline of this plan. You will easily do it at your leisure. It has, no claim to originality. Time was, when it was extensively pursued in New England, and was productive of the best effects. O may that bright sun of better days speedily shine again upon the sons of the pilgrims !

It now only remains,

3. Under this head that we direct our inquiries to those great moral and religious preventives of poverty, which alone can stay the plague. Without derogating, in the smallest degree, from the importance of foregoing topics, this must be pre-eminent. It is always better, and generally much easier, to prevent evils, than to cure them. He who visits the sick, and administers consolation to the dying, when the yellow-fever is spreading desolation over a great city, does well; but he who effectually guards against the introduction of this terrible disease, or prevents it, by a timely removal of the causes of contagion, does better. If we have not been unprofitably employed, in contriving how to check the growth, and lop off the branches of a baleful stock, it is not, after all, like • laying the axe unto the root of the tree.'. It is not enough to show how needless pauperism may be kept within its present limits, or even very much contracted;

6

If we

we must, if possible, dry up the sources of this turbid and turbulent stream. Happily, all the requisite means are placed, by a kind Providence, within our reach. ultimately fail, it will be our own fault, and the fault of those who ought to co-operate with us, in this benevolent enterprise. The causes of poverty have been enumerated, and to these we must direct our earnest attention. We must raise a warning voice against prodigality, which, like a pitiless whirlpool, has ingulfed thousands, ere they saw or suspected the danger. We must do everything in our power, both by precept and example, to discountenance pride and extravagance of every kind, as promiDent causes of numberless attachments and sales at auction, followed by a long and melancholy train of houseless, supperless, broken-hearted families. It is especially incumbent on the wealthy, not to be extravagant in their dress, or their entertainments, as every example of this sort has an extremely mischievous influence upon society. What though you may be able, without seriously feeling the expense, to entertain large parties, and feast them upon all the delicacies that can be purchased with money ; your guests, your intimate friends, perhaps, can ill afford to return the civility. And must it not be un

kind in you, (I have selected the mildest term) to raise , the style of social intercourse so much above their reach, that they must either impoverish their families, to emulate your profusion, or receive you with a mortifying consciousness of the striking contrast between their tables and yours? What a mighty influence would plainness and frugality, in the higher walks of life, have to check the growth of extravagance among all classes of men, and in this way, by removing the cause, to prevent much of the shame and many of the sufferings of poverty ?

Again : as idleness is known to clothe such multitudes with rags, we must use every proper argument, and employ all suitable measures, to promote industry. As intemperance is seen to be the great cause of causes, by which humanity is disgraced and our poor-houses are crowded, we must direct our most strenuous efforts against this crying sin, this sweeping curse, this raging pestilence, this devouring conflagration, this horrible reproach of our land! We must consider whence we are fallen ; must revert to first principles ; must begin at the foundation. If all men were honest, sober, industrious, frugal, and virtuous; if none were addicted to expensive and ruinous vices, it is certain there would be no unnecessary poverty. Whatever, then, has a tendency to prevent vice and immorality, to form good habits and good principles, must be a preventive of pauperism.

Education, (especially that part of it which is denominated moral and religious) education is the great instrument by which, with a divine blessing, the next generation may be freed from most of the burdens and miseries which we now feel and witness. Yes, my brethren, God has put into our hands a more potent lever than Archimedes ever dreamed of; and the bible has revealed to us that other world, which he could never find, where we may place ourselves for moving this!

We must, then, unite our exertions, our prayers, and our influence, in the grand business of education. The infant mind is wonderfully susceptible. Moral impressions, either good or bad, it will receive, much earlier than is generally supposed; and it is our business, while we guard against wrong impressions, to sow the seeds of virtue and religion.

Childhood is the prime of spring. It is a short and

critical period. It is the true golden age, which never returns. Government and subordination, moral and religious instruction, must commence in families. Parents must teach their children diligently, and must enforce their precepts by a corresponding example. Schools must be cheerfully and liberally patronized. Great care must be exercised in the choice of instructers; and they must be encouraged and supported in all their measures. Every teacher must be required to inculcate good principles upon the minds of his pupils, to make his school, if possible, a nursery of piety, as well as good learning. The bible and the catechism must be restored to their place and use, both in the school-room and family. Children must be taught, from their infancy, to abhor falsehood, profaneness, drinking, gaming, and every other evil habit. They must be faithfully trained up in habits of industry and economy. Idleness at any age, is vice, and vice is ruin. Children must be taught to despise every mean and sordid action. They must be warned against associating with wicked companions; must be kept as far as possible from all the haunts of vice, and must be accustomed to seek for enjoyment in that kind of society where their minds may be improved, and every virtuous habit strengthened. Above all, they must be brought up in the fear of God. They must be taught to look up to him as their Creator, Preserver, and Judge; to humble themselves before him as sinners; to believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ ; to take his word for their rule ; to love their neighbors as themselves, and to lay up treasures in heaven.

Let this course be pursued, my brethren, with the rising generation ; let the preceding outline be filled up by parents, guardians, school-masters, and ministers, and you

« PreviousContinue »