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CH A P. IV.
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T HIS kind of beneficence is chiefly to be ex
I pected from members of the legislature, magiftrates, medical, legal, and facerdotal professions.
1. The care of the poor ought to be the principal object of all laws, for this plain reason, that the rich are able to take care of themselves.
Much has been, and more might be done, by the laws of this country, towards the relief of the impocent, and the protection and encouragement of the industrious poor. Whoever applies himself to collect observation's upon the state and operation of the poor laws, and to contrive remedies for the imperfections and abuses which he observes, and digests these remedies into acts of parliament, and conducts them by argument or influence through the two branches of the legislature, or communicates his ideas to those, who are more likely to carry them into effect; deserves well of a class of the community lo numerous, that their happiness makes no inconsiderable part of the whole. The study and activity thus employed is charity, in the most meritorious sense of the word.
2. The application of parochial relief is entrusted in the first instance to overseers and contractors, who have an interest in opposition to that of the poor, inasmuch as whatever they allow them comes in part out of their own pocket. For this reason, the law has deposited with justices of the peace, a power of superintendence and controul, and the judicious in
ter position of this power is a most useful exertion of charity,and oft-times within the ability of those, who have no other way of serving their generation. A country gentleman, of very moderate education, and who has little to fpare from his fortune, by learning fo much of the poor law as is to be found in Dr. Burn's Justice, and by furnishing himself with a knowledge of the prices of labour and provision, so as to be able to estimate the exigencies of a family, and what is to be expected from their industry, may, in this way, place out the one talent committed to him, to great accounti . I
3. Of all private professions, that of medicine puts it in a man's power to do the most good at the least cxpence, Health, which is precious to all, is to the poor invaluable; and their complaints, as 'agues, rheumatisms, &c. are often such as yield to medicine. And with respect to the expence, drugs at first hand coft little, and advice costs nothing, where it is only bestowed upon those who could not afford to pay for it.
4. The rights of the poor are not so important or intricate as their contentions are violent and ruinous. A Lawyer or Attorney, of tolerable knowledge in his, profession, has commonly judgment enough to adjust these disputes, with all the effect, and without the expence of a law-suit; and he may be said to give a poor man twenty pounds, who prevents his throwing it away upon law. A legal man, whether of the profession or not, who, together with a spirit of conciliation, possesses the confidence of his neighbourhood, will be much resorted to for this purpose, ele pécially since the great increase of costs has produ-, ced a general dread of going to law.
Nor is this line of beneficence confined to arbitration Seasonable counsel, coming with the weight which the reputation of the adviser gives it, will often keep or extricate the rash and uninformed out of great difficulties. M 2
I know not a more exalted charity than that which presents a shield againft the rapacity or persecution of a tyrant.
5. Betwixt argument and authority (I mean that authority which flows from voluntary respect, and attends upon sanctity and disinterestedness of cha. racter) something may be done amongst the lower orders of mankind, towards the regulation of their conduct, and the satisfaction of their thoughts. This office belongs to the ministers of religion ; or rather whoever undertakes it becomes a minister of religion. The inferior clergy, who are nearly upon a level with the common fort of their parishioners, and who on that account gain an easier admiflion to their so ciety and confidence, have in this respect more in their power than their superiors: the discreet use of this power constitutes one of the most respectable functions of human nature.
C H A P.
1. The obligation to bestow relief upon the poor. II. The manner of bestowing it. III. The pretences by which men excuse themselves
I. The obligation to bestow relief upon the poor.
ITHEY who rank pity amongst the original
T impulses of our nature, rightly contend, that, when it prompts us to the relief of human misery, it indicates sufficiently the divine intention, and our duty. Indeed, the same conclusion is deducible from the existence of the passion, whatever account be given of its origin. Whether it be an instinct or a habit, it is in fact a property of our nature, which God appointed ; and the final cause, for which it was appointed, is to afford to the mi. ferable, in the compassion of their fellow.creatures, a remedy for those inequalities and distresses, which God foresaw that many must be exposed to, under every general rule for the distribution of property.
Beside this, the poor have a claim founded in the law of nature, which may be thus explained. All things were originally common. No one being able to produce a charter from heaven, had any better title to a particular posseffion, than his next neighbour. There were reasons for mankind's
agreeing agreeing upon a separation of this common fund: and God for these reasons is presumed to have ra. tified it. But this separation was made and con. sented to, upon the expectation and condition, tbat every one should have left a sufficiency for his sub. listence, or means of procuring it : and as no fixed laws for the regulation of property can be so con. trived, as to provide for the relief of every case and distress which may arise, these cases and distrefies, when their right and share in the common stock was given or taken from them, were supposed to be left to the voluntary bounty of those, who might be acquainted with the exigencies of their fituation, and in the way of affording aftillance. And there. fore, when the partition of property is rigidly main. tained against the claims of indigence and distress, it is maintained in opposition to the intention of thole who made it, and to bis, who is the Supreme Pro. prietor of every thing, and who has filled the world with plenieourriels for the sustentation and comfort of all whom he fends into it.
The Christian scriptures are more copious and explicit upon this dury than almost any other. The deicription which Christ has left us of the proceed. ings of the last day establishes the obligation of bounty, beyond controverly “ When the Son of “ man hall come in his glory, and all the body " angels with him, then shall he fit upon the “ throne of his glory, and before hiin ihail be
gathered all nations, and he thall Ieparatc thera “ one from another.--Then thall the king lay unto “ thein on his right hand, Come ye bleiled or my “ father, inherit the kingilom prepared for you
from the toundation of the world : Frl was an " hungered, and ye gave me meas: I was thirliy, * and ye gave me drink: I was a Ilra: ger, and yo « touk me in: naked, and ye chached me:1 *as * fick, and ye vified me: I waa ia prilon, ainsiye
came unto me.--And inal much as ye have donc