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his being an idler, or of his bearing the name of gentleman! Some of the noblest men in your city, in your country, in the world, are poor men-ay, and men engaged in the humblest toils. I have seen the stamp of honesty and manliness and dignity, on brows that are soiled with the sweat and dust of street labour; and I never saw upon any brows, the more legible inscription of sacred and beautiful humanity. Yes, there are men, who, for their families, are humbly and nobly, and with many disinterested sacrifices, toiling every day in these streets, who have more dignity, more gracefulness, more refinement of character, than some who walk these same streets in pride, and are clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day. I love those men. I like their faces—the open and manly brow, the clear and untroubled eye. I like their very faces; they are more beautiful, they are fai finer subjects for the pencil, than countenances pinched with covetous anxieties, or dressed up with smiles of hollow courtesy ; how much more than those which are swelled out with self-importance, or bloated with luxurious excess!
Let not this be taken for fine, or perhaps fantastic, sentiment. At any rate, I mean it not for such. It is the real tendency of all true civilization and Christianity, to raise the mass of mankind to respectability and honour. To this tendency, in America we must yield. It is our only safety. The necessity may never have existed before; but it exists now—and here. We may not resist, we may not neglect, we may not defer, the duty that it imposes upon us.
But how is this duty to the poor, and I mean now the vicious poor-to be discharged? I answer, by
taking a proper social and moral interest in their wel.
It is not by almsgiving, that the depressed and indigent class of the poor is to be raised. This only perpetuates the evil which it professes to relieve. So far from raising the character of the poor, it breaks the very spring of that energy by which they must rise. It diminishes that self-respect which we wish to increase. Judicious loans to the poor may be most timely and useful; and relief should be administered to the sick. But so long as there is a nerve or a muscle in the human system that can work, and the possessor of it is put upon the pauper list, he is, by the very laws of human nature, inevitably degraded. Upon the deserving poor, the gifts of respect and affection may exert a kindly influence; but the gifts of mere pity, divested of respect, sear and blast even the callous heart of shameless indolence and vice. They find, indeed, one relic of human emotion, one angry feeling of wounded self-respect, in the abandoned mind, and they are fast killing that with kindness.
I altogether distrust, therefore, that system of indiscriminate and annual charity among us, which every winter pours out its flood, only to leave all more waste and desolate than it was before. Nay, I am tempted to say, that this promiscuous almsgiving is an interference with the system of Providence. For what does Providence say to a man who is suffering in winter from his indolence, or improvidence, or wasteful vice, in summer? What is the language to him of naked. ness, and cold feet, and a cold hearth? “ Fool !" it says, “ that hadst not the industry of the ant, or the foresight of the bee. They are provided for, now; and
way art not thou? Because thou wouldst not work ; or because thou wouldst waste. Take the lesson, then, that thy shivering limbs are preaching thee, for it comes very near thee. Take the lesson that is written on thy bare walls, and wretched straw pallet, and chill hearthstone. Be wise, another time; and thou wilt be provided for, by the only hands that ought to provide for thee—thine own!” “Nay,” says a mistimed human interference, “but this is too hard. We will make a contribution; we will fill a treasury, and give them relief.” And the consequence is, that these persons, instead of taking the lesson of a wise and truly kind Providence, escape it entirely. Suppose that we all could be dealt with in this way, and what would become of society? Could all the dissolute escape disease and shame, and all the ambitious and proud and envious, escape disappointment and chagrin, and every negligent and wicked man, in fine, be freed from the proper consequences of his folly and sin, what would become of society? I say that its very bands would be dissolved, and the system of a moral, providential government would be at an end. But that government is too strong to be ultimately resisted, and too strict to be evaded; and we see, in the constantly growing evils of pauperism, the folly of our mistaken and blind interference. Let the poor know, that except in cases of unavoidable calamity or prostrating sickness, they shall not be helped, and I believe that it would soon work ay favourable change in their condition. Let the thousands that are now given in indiscriminate charity be appropriated to judicious moral instruction, and the effect could not fail to be thorough and permanent, and immense.
In fine, let every Congregation among us support a minister at large; and I am certain that a measure so comprehensive, would soon put a new face upon our cities. This is the proposition, my brethren, which I lay before you this day, and I leave it to your prayerful consideration.
Not long since, I addressed you on the duty which is incumbent on us all, on every individual of the more prosperous classes, to visit the poor and neglected. I believe that the suggestions then made, commended themselves to your feelings and consciences. Some of you, I know, undertook the task. But you found it more difficult than you expected. You felt that you needed a training for the purpose ; and I believe that you have reluctantly intermitted your exertions. I cannot altogether relinquish that object; it is the point to which society ought ultimately to come. But, perhaps, it is true, that “a ministry at large” must prepare the way for it.
At any rate, I say, if you will not, or cannot, go yourselves to visit the poor, then send some minister of your beneficence and sympathy among them. And think not to send an inferior or ordinary man to them. I know of no ministerial function in the world that requires more delicacy, more discrimination, and judgment, and varied talent, than this. Send, therefore, such a one among your poor and neglected brethren. He will be a messenger of mercy to them. He will be their adviser and friend. They want advice, they want friendship, far more than they want money. The voice of friendship from the classes above them, they have seldom heard. It fills their hearts with wonder, and their eyes with tears, to hear
it. I speak of facts. There are records of that blessed ministry which would make you weep with joy, if you could read them; gratitude beaming from many a lately sad and despairing brow, because the vicious husband, or father, or son, is restored to his suffering family ; light exchanged for darkness in many a poor dwelling; comfort for miserable destitution ; purity for pollution; peace for distraction; men and women that lately were raging like demons, cursing man and God, now sitting in peace and in their right mindsitting together a happy family, and blessing, as more than light and life, the visitation of that beneficent ministry. Send that visitation, my brethren, to the poor; and “the blessing of many ready to perish shall come upon you.”
Once more, I say, send that visitation to the poor, and send it in good hope and confidence. It is not necessary that the world should be given up to sin and misery. It is not necessary that cities or countries should grow dissolute as they grow wealthy and popuJous. There is power enough in society, were it but exerted, to save it from its worst vices and sufferings. Oh! would men but understand that great mystery of Christianity, too seldom solved by experience, that the offices of philanthropy are the most blessed and sublime privileges of our being; that it is not what we do for ourselves, but what we do for others, that makes our glory and happiness !-would men but do each other good as they have done each other evil !-and instead of kingdoms and armies banded together for strife and slaughter, would that the associated power of the human race were put forth to heal the wounds and woes of life! Come that day, looked after and