Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

for this amongst us; from the discontinuance of that religious intercourse between pastors and people in private, which remains in Protestant churches abroad as well as in the church of Rome; and from our small public care and provision for keeping up a sense of religion in the lower rank, except by distributing religious books. For in this way they have been assisted; and any well-disposed person may do much good amongst them, and at a very trifling expense, since the worthy society before-mentioned has so greatly lessened the price of such books. And this pious charity is an additional reason why the poor should be taught to read, that they may be in a capacity of receiving the benefit of it. Vain indeed would be the hope that anything in this world can be fully secured from abuse. For as it is the general scheme of Divine Providence to bring good out of evil, so the wickedness of men will, if it be possible, bring evil out of good. But upon the whole, incapacity and ignorance must be favourable to error and vice; and knowledge and improvement contribute, in due time, to the destruction of impiety as well as superstition, and to the general prevalence of true religion. But some of these observations may perhaps be thought too remote from the present occasion. It is more obviously to the purpose of it to observe, that reading, writing, and accounts are useful, and, whatever cause it is owing to, would really now be wanted in the very lowest stations ; and that the trustees of our charity-schools are fully convinced of the great fitness of joining instruction easy labour of some sort or other, as fast as it is practicable; which they have already been able to do in some of them.

Then as to placing out the poor children, as soon as they are arrived at a fit age for it, this must be approved by every one, as it is putting them in a way of industry and domestic government at a time of life in some respects more dangerous than even childhood. And it is a known thing that care is taken to do it in a manner which does not set them above their rank; though it is not possible to do it always exactly as one would wish. Yet I hope it may be observed without offence, if any of them happen to be of a very weakly constitution, or of a very distinguished capacity, there can be no impropriety in placing these in employments adapted to their particular cases, though such as would be very improper for the generality.

But the principal design of this charity is, to educate poor children in such a manner as has a tendency to make them good, and useful, and contented, whatever their particular station be. The care of this is greatly neglected by the poor; nor truly is it more regarded by the rich, considering what might be expected from them, And if it were as practicable to provide charity-schools which should supply this shameful neglect in the rich, as it is to supply the like, though more excusable neglect in the poor, I should think certainly that both ought to be done for the same reasons. And most people, I hope, will think so too, if they attend to the thing I am speaking of, -which is the moral and religious part of education, what is equally necessary for all ranks, and grievously wanting in all. Yet in this respect the poor must be greatly upon a disadvantage, from the nature of the case, as will appear to any one who will consider it. For if

poor children are not sent to school, several years of their childhood of course pass away in idleness and loitering. This has a tendency to give them per

haps a feeble- listlessness, perhaps an headstrong profli. gateness of mind; certainly an indisposition to proper application as they grow up, and an aversion afterwards not only to the restraints of religion, but to those which any particular calling, and even the nature of society require. Whereas children kept to stated orders, and who many hours of the day are in employment, are hy this means habituated both to submit to those who are placed over them and to govern themselves ; and they are also by this means prepared for industry in any way of life in which they may be placed. And all this holds abstracted from the consideration of their being taught to read; without which, however, it will be impracticable to employ their time; not to repeat the unanswerable reasons for it before-mentioned. Now several poor people cannot, others will not, be at the expense of sending their children to school. And let me add, that such as can and are willing, yet if it be very inconvenient to them, ought to be eased of it, and the burden of children made as light as may be to their poor parents.

Consider next the manner in which the children of the poor who have vicious parents are brought up in comparison of other children, whose parents are of the same character. The children of dissolute men of fortune may have the happiness of not seeing much of their parents. And this, even though they are educated at home, is often the case, by means of a customary distance between them, which cannot be kept amongst

Nor is it impossible that a rich man of this character, desiring to have his children better than himself, may provide them such an education as may make them so, without his having restraint or trouble in the matter. And the education which children of better

the poor.

rank must have for their improvement in the common accomplishments belonging to it is of course, as yet, for the most part attended with some sort of religious education. But the poor, as they cannot provide persons to educate their children, so, from the way in which they live together in poor families, a child must be an eye and ear witness of the worst part of his parents' talk and behaviour. And it cannot but be expected that his own will be formed upon it. For as example in general has very great influence upon all persons, especially children, the example of their parents is an authority with them when there is nothing to balance it on the other side. Now take in the supposition that these parents are dissolute, profligate people; then over and above giving their children no sort of good instruction, and a very bad example, there are more crimes than one in which it is to be feared they will directly instruct and encourage them; besides letting them ramble abroad wherever they will, by which, of course, they learn the very same principles and manners they do at home. And from all these things together such poor children will have their characters formed to vice by those whose business it is to restrain them from it. They will be disciplined and trained up in it. This surely is a case which ought to have some public provision made for it. If it cannot have an adequate one, yet such an one as it can ; unless it be thought so rare as not to de

our attention. But in reality, though there should be no more parents of this character amongst the poor, in proportion, than amongst the rich, the case which I have been putting will be far from being uncommon. Now, notwithstanding the danger to which the children of such wretched parents cannot but be exposed, from what they see at home; yet by instilling into them the principles of virtue and religion at school, and placing them soon out in sober families, there is ground to hope they may avoid those ill courses, and escape that ruin, into which, without this care, they would almost certainly run. I need not add how much greater ground there is to expect that those of the children who have religious parents will do well. For such parents, besides setting their children a good example, will likewise repeat and enforce upon them at home the good instructions they receive at school.

serve

After all, we find the world continues very corrupt; and it would be miraculous indeed if charity schools alone should make it otherwise; or if they should make even all who are brought up in them proof against its corruptions. The truth is, every method that can be made use of to prevent or reform the bad manners of the age will appear to be of less effect in proportion to the greater occasion there is for it: as cultivation, though the most proper that can be, will produce less fruit, or of a worse sort, in a bad climate than in a good

And thus the character of the common people, with whom those children are to live in the ordinary intercourse of business and company, when they come out into the world, may more or less defeat the effects of their education. And so likewise may the character of men of rank, under whose influence they are to live. But whatever danger may be apprehended from either or both of these, it can be no reason why we should not endeavour by the likeliest methods we can, to better the world, or keep it from growing worse. The good tendency of the method before us is unquestionable. And I think myself obliged to add, that upon a comparison

one.

« AnteriorContinuar »