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Thus it appears, that the providential appointment of poverty as a means of public good brings an obligation upon men in civil society to exert themselves for the effectual relief of those on whom the mischief falls.

I would now observe, that sacred as this obligation is, it is rather a duty which all individuals owe to the public than what the public owes to its members. I mean to say, that the most natural and the best method of relief is by voluntary contribution. It may be proper that the law should do something for the protection of the necessitous. The law should be careful not to do too much: Its provisions: should be such as may save poverty from neglect, and yet leave the danger of poverty indiscriminately impendent over every individual in every station; that the community may receive the full benefit of the universal dread of that contingency. Whether this joint end, of removing the evil of actual poverty from private life without losing the public advantage of the danger, may be attained by any laws which give

the poor a claim to a maintenance to be levied upon certain districts in proportion to the wants of the poor which each shall at any time contain, when the effect of all such laws must be to change the dread of want in the lowest orders of the people into an expectation of a competency, or of something which idleness will prefer to a competency, is a question which it is not my province to discuss. The fact I may take leave to mention, that the burden of the imposition in this country is grown, as all know, to an enormous size: The benefit to the industrious poor, I fear, is less than the vast sum annually levied on the nation ought to procure for them; and the pernicious effect on the manners of the lowest rank of people is notorious. In another place the question might deserve a serious investigation, how far the manner of our legal provision for the poor may or may not operate to increase the frequency of criminal executions.

Meanwhile, it is my duty to inculcate, that neither the heavy burden nor any ill effects of the legal provision for the poor

may release the citizen from the duty of voluntary benefaction; except indeed so far as what the law takes from him diminishes his means of spontaneous liberality. What the laws claim from him for public purposes, he is indeed not to consider as his own: What remains after the public claims are satisfied is his property; out of which he is no less obliged to contribute what he can to the relief of poverty, than if no part of what is taken out of his nominal property by the law were applied to charitable purposes. For the fact is, that after the law hath done its utmost, that most interesting species of distress which should be the especial object of discretionary bounty goes unrelieved. The utmost that the law can do is confined to the poverty of the lowest rank of the people: Their old age or their debility it may furnish with the shelter of a homely lodging, with the warmth of coarse but clean apparel, and with the nourishment of wholesome food: Their orphans it should cherish, till they grow up to a sufficiency of strength for the business of husbandry, or of the lowest and most laborious trades.

But to the poverty of the middle and superior orders, the bounty of the law, after its utmost exactions, can administer no adequate relief.


Thanks be to God, that heavy as our public burdens are, of which the legal provision for the poor is among the greatest, they seem to be no check upon the charitable spirit of this country; in which free bounty is still dispensed with a wide and hand. Witness the many large and noble edifices, the pride and ornament of this metropolis, many raised, all enriched, by voluntary contribution and private legacy, for the supply of every want, the mitigation of every disaster, with which frail mortality is visited, in every stage and state of life, from helpless infancy to withered age: Witness the numerous charitable associations in all parts of the country, among all descriptions of the people: Witness the frequent and ample contributions to every instance of private distress, once publicly made known: Witness the pious associations for the support of distant missions, and the promotion of Christian

knowledge: Witness this annual celebrity, the prosperity of this charitable institution, and the numbers now assembled here. For I trust it is less the purpose of our present meeting to feast the ravished ear with the enchanting sounds of holy harmony (which, afford indeed the purest of the pleasures of the senses), than to taste those nobler ecstacies of energizing love of which flesh and blood, the animal part of us, can no more partake than it can inherit heaven. They are proper to the intellect of man, as an image of the Deity; they are the certain symptoms of the Christian's communion. with his God, and an earnest of his future transformation into the perfect likeness of his Lord..

Although every species of distress, not excepting that which may have taken rise in the follies and the vices of the sufferer, is an object of the Christian's pity (for the love of Christ, who died for his enemies, is our example; and the beneficence of our heavenly Father, who is kind to the evil and the unthankful, is the model of our charity), yet our joy in doing good must then be the

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