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ed me to send you my sentiments upon the alteration you had made, and still thought of making, upon your plan.
I have since endeavoured to consider, with all the attention of which I am at present capable, the arguments that may be brought on both sides of the question; and with regard to the first point, viz: the prac. tisings, I will frankly own, that, could you send your young ladies to one where girls only are admitted, I should more readily yield my opinion of the matter, to those Christians who have advised you to it. But, as I learn that it is a promiscuous dance of boys and girls, I must in conscience say, that I look upon such a meeting, as equally pernicious in its effects upon the minds of young people, as balls and public assemblies on persons of riper years. When you mentioned the subject to me first, I thought it had been a practising of girls only, else should then have given you my sentiments fully upon the head.
As to the reading of plays, or any part of them, to your young people, I must own, it does not appear to me to be expedient: it may be productive of bad consequences, and the good arising from it, is, (at most,) uncertain. It is, no doubt, very desirable to enlarge young people's minds, and improve their taste, as well as their persons : but such is the state of things in this world, that to attain this to the degree wished for by every person of refined taste, some things must be sacrificed of much greater value-for example, a girl cannot acquire the smart, polished air of a person of fashion, without imbibing too much of the spirit of the world. Vanity and emulation must be awakened and cultivated in the heart, before she will apply herself with diligence to outward accomplish
ments; neither can her mind and taste be much improved in polite literature, without losing its relish for simple truth. I grant you, there are a few Christians in the world who have acquired the outward accomplishments of it; and have, by Grace, been enabled to turn these to good account; who, like the Israelites, having spoiled the Egyptians, have made use of their jewels in adorning the tabernacle : but this can never serve as an argument on your side of the question. If the Lord sees fit to manifest his power and Grace by plucking a brand from the burning; this is no reason why children should be initiated into the ways of sin and folly, in hopes that some time or other, He will bring them out. We are never to do evil that good may come: and this brings the question to a short issue.
Do you think it lawful for Christians to attend public places, or to spend their time in reading plays ? Do you think these things tend, either immediately or remotely, to promote the glory of God? If you do not, I cannot see how you, as a Christian, can have any hand in introducing young ladies to the one, or in giving them a taste for the other.
This, dear madam, is my view of the matter: but I do not wish you to walk by my light. I believe all the children of God are taught by him, and ought to follow the dictates of their own consciences : I therefore pretend not to advise you, but shall endeavour to pray that the great unerring Counsellor may give you divine wisdom to be your teacher, to lead you into all truth, and to keep you from every thing inconsistent with his holy will.
I have met with so many interruptions since I began this letter, that I fear it is hardly intelligible. I shall
be sorry if I have said any thing that gives you uneasiness; your spirits seem low, and your business not going so well as could be wished: perhaps, I ought rather to have employed my pen in the way of consolation and encouragement, than by throwing in fresh matter of perplexity. Sure I am, I do not mean to add affliction to the afflicted; but, rather have been impelled, from a regard to truth, to write my real sentiments, as you desired.
Your friend and humble servant,
To the Society for the relief of poor widows with small
children, in April, 1800.
It is with pleasure we, your board, again mee this benevolent society. With pleasure we announce the success of the Institution—its funds, its usefulness, and its respectability increase. We have on the books two hundred and seventy-four annual subscribers, thirty-nine more than at last meeting.
The Treasurer has received three hundred and thirty dollars from ladies, in donations, and from gentlemen, six hundred and seventeen dollars, nearly double what they gave us last year. Your managers have expended eight hundred and twenty dollars since last meeting, not quite five months. Perhaps this may surprise you, but there was no avoiding it. Though the winter has been mild, and the price of wood moderate, the wants of the poor have been more pressing than in former years. We have on our books one hundred and forty-two widows, with four hundred and six children below twelve years of age, by far the greater part below six; besides many boys bound apprentices, for whom their mothers must wash, mend, and provide part clothing. Though the sum expended appears great, you will find, on calculation, that it is not quite six dollars to each family. Yet, by prudent management, giving it to them by little and little, and in necessaries, nourishing, vet cheap, it went further than twice the
sum given in money, and at once. Besides, in cordials for the sick, and exigencies of different kinds, your managers have begged, and taken from their own pockets and pantries, (I speak within bounds when I say) to the amount of two hundred dollars more. Most of our widows have to learn economy from necessity: in the days of their husbands they lived not only plentifully, but luxuriously. Every class of mechanics in New-York could live well and lay up for their families, were they frugal; but the reverse of this is the case the evil is general, and, I fear, not to be cured. The change to their widows greatly aggravates their misery-well may they read their sin in their punishment, when meagre want overtakes them. But God forgives, and so ought we: We, who have so much to be forgiven, yet have our necessaries, our comforts, and even our luxuries spared. To us, our comfortable dwellings, cheerful fires, and convivial parties, give to winter its charms. Alas, for her! the new-made widow! to whom all these are lost for ever—to her, the approach of winter is as the approach of death. Accustomed to spread the board by a cheerful fire-side, to welcome the companion of her heart from the labours of the day to bless and share the social meal, provided by his industry, drest with neatness and ingenuity, rendered savoury by health and appetite, and heightened in its relish by mutual love! The witty sayings of the prattlers are repeated, and the news of the household exchanged for the news of the city. The little ones too have their share ; they tell the father the exploits of the day, who forgets his fatigue, and dandles them by turns on his knee, while the mother's moistened eyes glisten with pleasure. Alas! the change!-Husband, father, support, provider.