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tract them. In the account which is given of felons and malefactors, or which they have given of themselves, I never heard of one that imputed his ruin to his learning; but of numbers who have laid it wholly to their ignorance; which ignorance proceeded either from the want of instruction, or their own indisposition to receive it. Some were neglected by bad parents; some had no teachers; others had them, and ran away from them, because they were idle and ill disposed; as if there were a mutual antipathy between vice and learning:
The profligacy of the lowest order of people, in this age and nation, hath of late become so alarming to the public, (who know not what cause to ascribe it to, but to a general want of teaching) that Sunday schools have lately arisen out of the evil, as the most promising remedy; and I trust in God, we shall, in a few years, see the benefit of them. They must tend to remove that ignorance of the common people, which hath, of late years, so filled our gaols, arid occasioned such numberless executions. A worthy clergyman who had attended an unhappy criminal, lately condemned and executed for a shocking murder, told me he found him in total ignorance: he had never been, to his own knowledge, within a church since he was baptized there; and seemed to have no sense of God or the devil, but such as had been collected from the oaths and curses of his wicked companions. This poor wretch, roused into a little sensibility by an approaching execution, had the elements of his catechism to learn, when he was going out of the world. This man is but the pattern of multitudes, who come daily, by the same way, to the same end. Upon the whole, if knowledge doth harm, it is by accident, and con-.
trary- to its nature: but ignorance destroys by uecesr 4
sary consequence; and therefore it is both wise and charitable to promote the teaching of the poor.
That this teaching may have the better effect, I must address myself in a few words to the children, who are supported by the charity of this day. If then the benefits of instruction are so apparent, it is your duty to value it accordingly, and receive it with attention and patience. Learning of every kind is the work of time; it comes by little and little, and more slowly to some than to others; but all must be improved by patience and perseverance. Remember how the grain, which the poor claim, as their portion from the rich, at this season of the year, is gathered up by single ears, for which they are patiently stooping all the day long, till they are wetted with the dew of heaven. We have seen the fields overspread with children at this employment; their parents encouraging them, and setting them the example. The fruits of learning, which you are gathering at school, are far more valuable and lasting: gather them therefore, with the like perseverance, and you will find at length, that as the single ears of the field rise insensibly to a burthen as large as you can bear; so will your learn-, ing increase in a few^ years to such a stock, as will be sufficient to carry you through the business of this' world to a better.
Above all, when you learn to read and write, learn to pray. Think how many fall into sin and misery, and the displeasure of God, because they were never taught to pray, or, because they would hever learn. To walk without prayer, is to walk without God: and how miserable must that be in a world of such danger! If the righteous viav, who lifteth up his eyes unto the everlasting hills, and prayeth daily for the help and protection of God, is scarcely saved, and escapes' a.s a brand plucked out of the Jire; what must become of those, who never pray at all? If we wrestle against principalities and powers, for which we are not a match: what must be the fate of those who have no helper? The poor and friendless orphan is in a hopeful state when compared with the soul that has lost the presence of its heavenly Father, and, while it is under the weakness and poverty of nature, and the deceitfulness of sin, is left to the malice of its spiritual enemies. Klake it, therefore, the first and the main business of your lives-, to engage the power and goodness of God on your side, by learning to call upon him at all times, as your catechism directs, by diligent prayer. We have a promise, that, whosoever cotneth to God by the prayer of faith, shall not be cast out: but, he who doth not pray, casteth out himself; and to such all evil must follow of course, both in this world and the next.
This is a reflection which equally concerns us all; and brings us back to the duty of the text, and the promise which attends it. If God be for us, saith the apostle, tcho can be against us t and if God be against us, who, or what, can be for us, to do us any good? What will all ttoe power, honour, and wealth, of this )vor!d signify to that man, to whom the great God of heaven and earth is no friend? and if the indevout, who never pray, have no title to his favour, the unmerciful shall pray in vain ; they never listened to the prayers and wants of others; and so their own prayers shall be fruitless. But, on the other hand, how blessed is he that cons'ulereth the poor and needy; the Lord shall deliver him in the time of trouble.
Blessedness, as the term is applied in the Scripture, and particularly in the Psalms, denotes the happiness of man living under the approbation and favour of God, and taking pleasure in the way of his commandments. Such is the state of the blessed man in the first psalm; he is happy in himself, and his ways are prospered upon the earth. There is a farther blessed^ ness in peace of conscience under a sense of the forgiveness of sin; as it is said, Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,
It is certainly one of the first blessings in this life, to be able and willing to relieve the wants of the poor; not only for the prospect of future good, but the enjoyment of present pleasure. For is it not a blessed privilege in the divine nature, that it can distribute ta the wants of all, and//// their hearts with food and gladness? and can it be otherwise than a blessedness in man, when he partakes of the blessedness of God? Here pleasure and duty go together; and, doubtless, there are many good hearts which feel in themselves the blessedness pronounced upon them in the text. Man can be like unto God in no capacity so much as in that of being glad to distribute: and to this likeness we may aspire without ambition. In fact, we are commanded to propose God himself as a pattern to us. "Be ye perfect," saith our blessed Saviour, "even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Not perfect in wisdom, or power, or purity, but in goodness; distribute with kindness, and do good to all without partiality, even as He maketh his sun to rise, and sendeth his rain on the just, and on the unjust. It is said of kings and magistrates, that they are gods, though they shall die like men: and Moses was made a God unto Pharaoh, with authority to execute vengeance on a proud prince, and a wicked people. This office we are not to desire; nor did Moses desire it; he was the meekest of men in his temper, and therefore God chose him as a fit instrument for the indieting of his judgments; who could drive the furious blast with calmness and serenity. He is the proper minister of vengeance, who can execute it without wrath. Our blessed Saviour, to whom all judgment is committed, was the mildest and the most lowly in his conversation upon earth. In this capacity of a judge, we are not called to imitate him; but all may go about doing good; and they who can do the most good, have the most pleasure within their power.
But there is now another sort of blessedness (and that more valuable to us in our present state) to which he shall be entitled, who considereth the poor and needy;—the Loud shall deliver him in the time of trouble.
In the days of youth, we are thoughtless and forgetful; in the days of prosperity, we are high-spirited and presumptuous; but the time of sorrow must overtake those who least think of it; and there are troubles in store, by which the highest minds shall be brought low, and the stoutest hearts shall be made to tremble. Then to find deliverance from the Lord, is the greatest blessedness of man; and consequently to secure it before hand, by shewing mercy to the poor, must be this great wisdom. Wealth being so often abused as a root, of evil, is called the Mammon oi unrighteousness; but by this wise application of it, we may provide to ourselves a sure friend in the day of our distress.
The troubles of man's mind are as many and as various as the diseases of his body, so that it were vain to number them: but there are some in particular under which you must all see, that we can expect no deliverance but from God. There are cares and disappointments, brought upon us sometimes by our own oversights, sometimes by the perverseness and treache