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and in many cases prudence also, as well as piety, direct them to make.
Some perhaps may approve one part of this undertaking beyond the rest : and whatever they give, will be applied, if they desire it, to that alone. Some may be unwilling to let their benefactions appear : and such may with ease transmit them privately : the donation will be acknowledged, the donor unknown. But though charity given in secret, from a principle of humility, be laudable in the highest degree; yet when the motive is fear of ridicule or censure from a profane age, this argues a weakness of mind, very dangerous to those who are influenced by it, and very prejudicial to religion: which cannot have a more seasonable service done it, than if
persons of rank and influence, all persons indeed, who inwardly wish well to it, would openly patronize the several designs formed to promote it.
The design now before us, both deserves and requires a general co-operation, to produce its complete effect: that they who are able, should contribute to it, in proportion to their ability; and they who are not, speak well of it, and pray for it: that we of the society should be vigilant and active, prudent and impartial in our administration : that persons in authority abroad should countenance and protect the work; for in their power it is, to forward or obstruct it very greatly: that the people in general there, should not only be willing to let all under them and around them partake of the grace of life*, but earnestly invite them to it, with meekness of wisdom, and by the most prevalent of arguments, a good conversation t. But beyond the rest it is necessary for every one concerned in the immediate 1 Pet. üi. 7.
+ James iii. 13.
execution of the design, always to remember, that bad as it is in other teachers of the Gospel to behave in a manner unworthy of their profession, it will be yet worse in them, if they take an uncommon character upon themselves, only to dishonour it; and compass sea and land *, with no other effect, than to make God's name be blasphemed amongst the Gentiles +: that they ought with peculiar diligence to follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace I, holding fast the faithful word, as they have been taught, that they may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convince gainsayers $; that they ought to be instant, in season, out of season ; to watch, endure afflictions, and make full proof of their ministry ll, shewing themselves in all things patterns of good works .
These then are our several duties; and great will be our reward for performing them. Let us therefore, each in his station, arise and be doing : and the Lord be with us **.
PREACHED IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF CHRIST-CHURCH,
LONDON, ON THURSDAY, MAY 5, 1743, BEING THE TIME OF THE YEARLY MEETING OF THE CHILDREN EDUCATED IN THE CHARITY SCHOOLS, IN AND ABOUT THE CITIES OF LONDON AND WESTMINSTER.
ROMANS xiv. 16.
Let not then your good be evil spoken of.
Amongst many excellencies, which unite to recommend our holy religion, there are few that shew its benevolent spirit in a stronger light, than its requiring us, not only to abstain from every thing sinful ourselves, but carefully to avoid giving any occasion of sin to others *. If the most innocent action, that we do, will be thought a wrong one by any of our brethren; we are strictly bound, either to omit it t, if we can without considerable inconvenience; or at least to guard and explain it, as well as the nature of the case will permit : that so we may neither tempt him to censure us uncharitably, nor to imitate us against his conscience. The former of these is the danger, which the words of the text most naturally express : and to keep clear of it, is a matter of great importance. Attention to obviate censures may often prevent * Rom. xiv.
+ 1 Cor. viii.
us from acting, as well as others from judging, amiss. And where we act ever so rightly, yet if we are suspected of erring, though in circumstances only, and seem negligent of that suspicion ; it may grieve good persons, and perhaps weaken their union with us; it may entirely separate from us the inconsiderate and wavering ; it may give a handle to the bad for great triumph and misrepresentation ; and both incline them to grow still worse, and enable them to do still more harm. Whereas prudent care, first not to deserve reproach, and then not to lie under it, may procure us regard from mankind, by shewing regard to them; may secure the well-disposed on our side, and furnish them with the means of defending us; may convince even the prejudiced of some of their mistakes, and moderate their vehemence in the rest. At least, we shall thus exercise a true Christian temper, improve ourselves, and be exemplary to others.
But though we are concerned to vindicate all our actions from injurious charges, yet our virtuous actions especially. When things merely lawful are condemned, the damage may be small: but if worthy deeds are vilified, religion suffers deeply. And therefore, as we are now assembled to patronize a design, which we apprehend to be a very valuable one, but which some have opposed and decried, the erecting of schools for the children of the poor, I shall endeavour to shew,
I. That this is a good work.
II. What are the right methods, to prevent its being evil spoken of.
III. What course we are to take, if that cannot be prevented entirely.
Little remains to be said indeed upon any of these points, which hath not been said often already. But if persons will repeat objections, the answers must be repeated too. And the plainest truths, as they cannot influence at all, if they are forgotten, ought to influence us the more, not the less, for being frequently inculcated.
I. First then it must be shewn, that this method of giving the children of the poor a Christian education, is a good work.
Now if we believe Christianity true, we must believe it is the way to eternal happiness. And were we to doubt of its truth, we must notwithstanding see it is the way to present happiness. For it confessedly teaches in the clearest manner, and enforces by the strongest motives, every thing conducive to private and public welfare: and nothing else doth so. Natural religion, as distinct from Christianity, whatever zeal may be pretended for it, neither hath been, nor is likely to be, seriously propagated : nor is it capable of carrying in it the direction, the encouragement, or the terror, that revelation doth. Virtue, without religion, will perpetually be modelled by people's fancies, and overturned by their passions and interests, for want of the hopes and fears of futurity to counterbalance them. And human laws, the only restraint besides, extend but to a small part of our behaviour; and without principle, they will be faultily contrived, and remissly or partially executed : men will elude them in some cases, break through them at all adventures in others; and having once learnt to despise death, as they well may if nothing follows it, will have little fear of what the magistrate can inflict. All ages and nations have found these things true: they are visibly so in our own, to an uncommon degree : and experience joins with reason to acknowledge, that Scripture points out the