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ESSAY TOWARDS THE ENCOURAGEMENT
The good education of children is an important duty of parents, and a very valuable blessing to the rising age; yet there are great multitudes of parents, in the lower ranks of life, who are so ignorant, that they are incapable of instructing their own children well in the knowledge of things, that belong to this world or another : Or, if they have knowledge, yet some are so exceeding poor, that they can hardly withhold time enough from earning their bread, to spend in the careful education of their sons and their daughters : And among these poorer parts of mankind, there are others, who are too careless in this important concern, though the welfare of their children, here and hereafter, seems to depend upon it: And there are great numbers also who die in poverty, and leave their young offspring behind them untaught, and grievously exposed.
What must be done in this case ? must all those children, who are so unbappy as to be born of poor or ignorant parents, grow up like the brutes of the earth, without education ? Must they be abandoned to the wilderness of their own nature, and be let run loose and savage in the streets ? Shall no care be taken to inform their minds, to curb their sinful pas sions, and to make them speak and act like reasonable creatures, and live useful to the world? When we see or hear of such unhappy objects as these, methinks our compassion and charity for these young creatures of our own species, should work powerfully within us, to reach out the hand of bounty, to train them up to some degrees of knowledge, and to the practice of virtue, and put them in a way to support themselves by honest labour : Or, at least our zeal for the honour of God, for the good of our country, and for the welfare of the succeeding age, should inspire us with some sentiments of liberality, in order to redress this grievance, and prevent the growing mischief.
Those that are blessed with a good competence of the things of this life, and bave no children of their own, seem to be invited by Providence to take these opportunities of doing good to the miserable and distressed orphans, who have lost their parents, and the children of the poor and needy, who cannot maintain and instruct their own offspring. Those also who feel the tender sensations of parental love to their sons and their daughters, and, with zeal and delight, train them up in useful knowledge, should sympathize a little with those poor unhappy parents, who would fain have their children trained up in piety and virtuc, in diligence, and duty to God and inan; but their inere poverty withholds them from giving their children the benefit of a school. Thus different persons should be led by various motives to promote so pious and charitable a work.
These were the springs, which at first moved the hearts of some pious and generous persons to erect schools of charity for this purpose, and particularly in the city of London. There was one set up in Gravel Lane, in Southwark, by the protestant dissenters, a little before the revolution, and our deliverance by King William of glorious memory. Many others were formed by persons of the established church, to which several dissenters subscribed largely. But at last they found by sufficient experience, that the children were brought up in too many of these schools, in principles of disaffection to the present government, in a bigotted zeal for the word church, and with a violent enmity, and malicious spirit of persecution, against all whom they were taught to call presbyterians, though from many of their hands, they received their bread and clothing.
It was time then, for the dissenters to withdraw that charity which was so abused : Aud since the favour of our rulers gives us leave to educate children according to our sentiments, and the dictates of our consciences, some generous spirits among us, have made attempts of this kind, and employ their bounty in the support of a few such schools. And as we hope this charity will be acceptable to God, and useful to mankind, so we are well assured, it will be a sensible service to the present government, which bas no friends in the world more sincere, and more zealous than the protestant dissenters. Several excellent sermons have been preached among us, wherein persons have been warmly excited to contribute their helping-hand, to this charitable and beneficial design. That which was published in the year 1723, by my worthy friend and brother, Mr. Daniel Neal, gives the most large and particular narrative of the management of these schools, and their methods of education, with an account of the advantages arising to the public thereby : And to this useful discourse, I refer my readers who would be particularly informed in this matier. When I was desired to preach on the like occa-' sion last November, after a short account of the benefit of good education, I undertook to vindicate these schools from many common and popular objections which are raised against them: And I have here published this vindication a little enlarged, and descended into some more particular circumstances, at the earnest cequest of several gentlemen, who are concerned in the support and management of one of them, viz. that which is kept in Crutched-Friars near Aldgate.*
I designed, indeed, to have prefaced this discourse with a short Treatise on Education ; but that work growing larger daily under my bands, and being much importuned to let this appear sooner in the world, I have at last consented to it.
Before I apply myself directly to apswer the objections, I ask leave to lay down several propositions by way of concession : And when those who raise complaints against our schools of charity, have seen how much I grant to them, this may perhaps bave some good influence, to mollify their spirits, and abate their op. position to these schools, and inay prepare them to give a more favourable attention to the answers which shall follow:
Proposition 1. The great God has wisely ordained in the course of his providence in all ages, that ainong mankind there should be some rich, and some poor : And the same providence hath allotted to the poor the meaner services, and hath given to the rich the superior and more honourable businesses of life : Nor is it possible, according to the present course of nature and human affairs, to alter this constitution of things, nor is it our design to attempt any thing so unreasonable.
II. As the children of the rich in general, ought to enjoy such an education, as may fit them for the better businesses of life, so the children of the poor, especially such as need the charity of their neighbours, should not be generally educated in such a manner, as may raise them above the services of a lower station.
III. Yet surely there may be some exception made for the children of those poor parents, who have enjoyed plentiful circumstances in life, and have bebavewell in thein, and performed the duties of justice and charity ; but by the wise providepce of God have been reduced to great degrees of poverty, and are hardly able to provide food and clothing for their own offspring, and much less to bestow a good education upon them. Some of these children are yet sunk deeper into distress, and are become orphans. Such misery has somewhat of a sacred tenderness belonging to it, and seems to claim the regards of sympathy and compassion from those who now enjoy plentiful circumstances, while they meditate on the uncertainty of human affairs, and reinember that they are liable to the like calamity,
* Since that time, the Reverend Mr. Samuel Chandler has published his sertaon, wbich was preached January 1, 1728, wherein he defends these schools of charity agaiost the cavils which have been raised, and the censures cast upon them, by the author of the “ Fable of the Bees.” Upon the perusal of it, I find sery solid and effectual answers given to the objections of that autbor. His discourse bas touched upon several points which I had omitted, and bas given considerable asesistance ioward the support of this cause of charity and beneficence,
And it is my opinion, that amongst all the poor, these children ought to have the chief advantage of the schools of charity.
IV. It seems also not unreasonable, that some distinction may be made between the children of the poor in great towos or cities, and those who are born and bred in far distant villages. The poor
born and bred in towns and cities, see and know more of the advantages of mankind, and the brighter side of the world, and come into inore acquaintance with the better parts and offices of life, and by this means are, as it were, naturally something nearer to them, and are sometimes occasionally called to assist in them : Whereas those who are born and bred afar off in country-villages, see and know little or nothing of this, and therefore, as they have less aptitude for these things, and have less veed of thein, so they have no tendency or reacha of soul after them; for providence seldom throws these objects or opportunities in their way.
V. If therefore the poor who are bred in towns and cities, should enjoy some small advantages in their education, beyond those who are born in far distant fields and villages, if they should be taught to add and subtract a few figures, as well as to write a plain hand, it is but agreeable to, and correspondent with that providence which has determined the place of their birth, and is fixed the bounds of their habitation ;" Acts xvii. 26. But for the poorest of mankind in distant parts of the country, perhaps the art of reading, may be sufficient to answer most of their necessities : And if they are taught to read well, I will not urge the charity of my friends to bestow any higher degrees of learn. ing upon them, on supposition that they are to be engaged in the business of husbandry and day-labour..
VI. And if it were possible, I would bave every charityschool so constituted, that the children of the poor both in city and country, might be employed in some work and labour, generally one half of the day; that it might have partly the nature of a work-house, as well as of a school, for all those who are to live by their hard labour, rather than by their learning. I mention several of these things but very briefly here, because I shall have occasion to resume these subjects in the following parts of my discourse. I proceed now to give some answers to the common objections, against all our charity-schools for the instruction
of the poor.
Objection I. There is no need of any learning at all for the mcanest ranks of mankind : Their business is to labour, not to think : Their duty is to do what they are commanded, to fill up the most servile posts, and to perform the lowest offices and drudgeries of life, for the conveniency of their superiors, and cominon nature gives them knowledge enongh for this purpose. They are born in the lowest station, and they ought always to
be kept in ignorance, that so knowing nothing but what they are bid, they may do their work without reasoninz about it.
Answer 1. Shall I argue a little against this objection, upou the mere principle of compassion and pity? If we consider how many thousands of the poor, both men and women in this nation, are stupidly ignorant of every thing that belongs to religion and morality, and know nothing of the true life of a reasonable creature, who are almost perfect heathens in a cliristian country, surely it must raise some compassion in our hearts toward them; have we any tenderness about our souls, and yet refuse to do any thing to prevent the young rising generation from being inmersed in the same stupid ignorance and gross errors about the things of God and man? Or, can we be content to see multitodes of mankind growing up wild and thoughtless of their best interests, and, perishing by thousands, from one generation to another, for want of light and knowledge?
2. Give me leave yet farther, to talk with such objectors upon the foot of that golden rule, which our Saviour gave to all his disciples; Mat. vii. 12. Is this dealing with others, as you would have others deal with you? Is this advice concerning the poor, such as your yourselves would think reasonable and agreeable to the rules of christian charity and goodness, if you had been born in the midst of extreme poverty and ignorance, and had several wealthy neighbours near you, who could relieve your misery at so easy a rate? Turn the tables a little, and set yourselves for a moment in the place of the poorest creature, and then enquire, whether you' would think it a kind and equitable conduct in your wealthy neighbours, who call themselves christiaus, to bind you for ever down to a state of darkuess, and discourage the cbarity of others, who would give you a lift from the deeps of ignorance? And must every soul of mankind who is born in poverty, be contined to live without knowledge? Suppose one in twenty should give some very promising prospect of an uncommon ingenuity and sense, must he be confined with his fellows to the same darkness and drudgery for ever? Let it be considered, that the God of nature has distributed genius, capacity, and sprightliness of mind with a promiscuous hand among the rich and the poor. The same God is 'the Maker of them both ; Prov. xxii. 2. and he has not always made tlie richest to be the brightest of men. There may be here and there a fine and sparkling genius born in cottages; there may be some bright souls amongst the poorest of mortals: These may, perhaps, by good cultivation, grow up into honourable and useful members in the church or state: We have had surprising instances of this kind in our day. And why should not such sprightly children, if I may so express it, have their chance to rise in the world ?' And be put into a capaeity of exerting their powers for the service of