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think ourselves bound, by all the obligations of interest, of duty, of compassion, and of gratitude, to contribute towards giving them a Christian education, towards supporting a charity whereby the bodies and the souls of the poor are regarded, by which parents receive both relief and comfort in the care that is taken of their children ; and an infinite number of souls have been and are like to be rescued from the consequences of poverty and ignorance, which are, very often, vice and misery in this world, and eternal misery in the world to come.
And before I conclude, let me just put you in mind of the text, and the inferences made from it; namely, that as our love of God will always rise in proportion to the sense we have of the debt He has forgiven us, or that we expect He will forgive us; so, wherever there is a sincere love of God, it will evermore appear, according to our power, in acts of mercy and charity.
To conclude the whole : it is by the favour of God that so many of us here present do want nothing that is needful either for our souls or for our bodies. Whatever we have cometh of God, and whatever we give, of His own do we give Him. And happy will it be for us, if what any of us give upon these occasions may but atone for our many vain expenses.
Happy would it be for us, if the frequent occasions of this kind, which we meet with, may make us more careful to husband the talents wherewith we are intrusted, that we may always be ready to offer some testimony of our love and gratitude to God, who has been so good and kind to us. That if it should ever be His pleasure to change our circumstances into a lower condition, we may have this comfort however, which will be no small one, that so much as we have given to God, and for His sake, to these good purposes, so much treasure we have laid up in heaven. For which place, may our merciful God prepare us all, by disposing us all to acts of mercy and piety, and in His good time bring us thither for the Lord Jesus' sake.
To Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
A CHARITY SERMON, PREACHED AT ST. PETER's, CORNHILL, SEPT. 28, 1711.
THE ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM THE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION OF
POOR CHILDREN, AND ESPECIALLY OF POOR GIRLS.
2 Tim. i. 4, 5. That I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice: and I am persuaded that in thee also.
I HAVE made choice of these words of St. Paul, as the most proper I can think of, to recommend a charity which seems to be chosen with so much judgment and foresight, that it only wants to be set in a true light, to have it approved and encouraged by all pious and well-disposed persons.
The charity is that of educating a considerable number of poor children, destitute of means to support, and of friends to take care of them.
The argument I would make use of to recommend this charity, is that which very much affected the Apostle, and filled his heart with joy,—to see true religion and piety continued in a family for so many generations.
And that which is very observable, and which should encourage us to take the same care in the education of girls as of boys, or perhaps a greater, is this: that the faith and piety here commended and gloried in were continued and propagated in the family by the women chiefly. That unfeigned faith, and that zeal for the glory of God, which was found in Timothy, and which qualified him for a bishop, or overseer, in the Church of God, was derived to him from his mother and grandmother, whose instruction and examples he followed; and so became an instrument of great good to the world.
This, without more words, will justify those who have taken upon themselves the trouble and management, and in some measure the charge, of this charity.
But that they may not be disappointed in the assistances and encouragements which they may justly expect from others; it will be proper to lay before you, in one short view, what effects they and you may very reasonably hope for, from this work so well begun and intended. And this I shall endeavour to do, by laying before you, and explaining these following particulars :
First; that all thoughtful people will have reason to rejoice when TRUE RELIGION, the unfeigned faith here spoken of, is propagated in the world.
Secondly; that the best foundation of true religion is that which is laid in the sober education of youth. And,
Thirdly; because this foundation is designed for the good of both sexes, and that you may see the advantage of giving girls a Christian education, that mothers are, generally speaking, the best instruments of such education, and are more capable than men of advancing this end.
That, therefore, the taking a particular care of girls, and educating them in true religion, will be attended with the greatest advantages; and consequently, the zeal and charity of such as promote this good work is very commendable in the sight of God and man.
I. To begin with the first of these considerations : that all thoughtful people will have reason to rejoice, when true religion, or an unfeigned faith, is propagated in the world.
They that have the public most at heart find by experience, that people of false or of no principles do make but very indifferent members of the commonwealth. If they come to have authority, as that sometimes happens, they have nothing to restrain them from making their own will their law, and their private interest their aim, in all they do. If they are in a lower condition, there is no wickedness they are not ready to run into, having no knowledge nor fear of God to keep them within bounds. What must be the condition of a nation, where such as these make the greatest number? It is not the wisdom of the magistrate, nor the multitude of penal laws, nor a severity in putting them in execution, can secure the peace and happiness of such a state.
It is much otherwise where people have been instructed in the true faith and fear of God, let their lot in the world be what it will.
Such as know that they are accountable to God for the abuse of the authority which He has given them will be afraid to oppress, though it be in the power of their hand to
Such as have been bred up in principles of Christian obedience will be afraid to resist, lest they should receive to themselves damnation, let men put never so favourable a sense upon
those words. And lastly, let people be never so poor, if they have had a Christian education, you shall see them orderly in their families, content with their condition, not desiring to better it by unjust ways, but living in hopes of better days here, or in full assurance that an amends will certainly be made them in the next world for what they want in this; that in the mean time it is not worth their while to be factious and discontented, and uneasy to those whom God has set over them.
These are some of the many benefits the public will have by people's being bred up in the principles of true religion.
But they that have the honour of God most at heart will have more reason still to rejoice, when they shall see a sincere faith and piety propagated in the world.
It is part of our daily prayers, that the kingdoms of the world may become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. And shall we not endeavour, and shall we not be pleased, in "turning men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God ?” Otherwise it is to no purpose, nor any just expression of our piety, to lament the wickedness of the world, and the daily dishonour done to God and religion. It was an unwary reproach of the Scribes and Pharisees, “These people that know not the law are cursed.” Pray, whose fault was it, that they knew not the law? Was the law so very hard to be understood; or was it not the fault of those, who would not condescend to speak to the capacities of the meaner people, who would not consider their circumstances, and provide suitably for their instruction ?
If we see God dishonoured by the wretched and wicked
lives of too many; if we see people careless of their souls, and unconcerned for what may come hereafter; we have too good reason to conclude, that these people never had a distinct knowledge of their duty, of their dependence upon God, and of their being accountable to Him.
If religion will not, let the regard we have to ourselves and families prevail with us to set forward this good work.
It is not generally taken notice of, the mischief that befalls us, by being in the neighbourhood of vice and impiety. Our children are more or less infected by evil examples ; our servants are perpetually in danger of being corrupted; our charge in maintaining useless hands daily increases ; and, which is not to be omitted, we are, or ought to be, under apprehensions of the judgments of God for the growing vices of the age, if we are not concerned to root them out.
In short; it is as true in ecclesiastical and civil bodies, as it is in the natural: If one member suffer, all the members (1 Cor. 12.
26.] suffer with it. There cannot be a great many wicked and loose people amongst us, but every body must feel an inconvenience more or less; and it is consequently the duty of every body to put to their helping hand, towards mending the principles and the manners of men of corrupt lives.
II. Now, that the best way of doing this will be, to take care of the growing age, to educate as many of the younger sort as we can, in sound principles and civil behaviour, is what we are to consider in the second place.
That which is called education, amongst the better sort, is too often no more than a method of bringing their children acquainted with the world, that on the one hand they may not be singular, and on the other, that they may not be imposed on.
How far this has contributed towards bettering the world, may be seen in the lives of such as have been thus educated ; who, for want of being restrained in their youth, for want of being rightly informed, and made truly sensible of their duty, for want of examples of soberness and piety in those about them; and lastly, for want of being brought up under a sense of their dependence upon God, of their inability to please Him without His assistance, or of obtaining that assistance, without using the means of grace which He has appointed; for want of this, for the most part, when they come to be masters